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Durango receives half inch of moisture during weekend storms

Fire officials say wind and lightning remain a concern
Durango welcomed its first June showers over the weekend. The National Weather Service predicts Southwest Colorado could see more rain in the week ahead. (Durango Herald file)

June rain showers lowered temperatures, helped ease the fire danger and soaked much of Southwest Colorado on Saturday and Sunday – and forecasters say the storms aren’t done yet.

Durango received about a half inch of rain and Cortez received just under a half-inch of rain on Saturday and as of 3 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Meanwhile, Pagosa Springs received about 1.24 inches of rain over a 24-hour period ending at 3 p.m. Sunday, according to a MesoWest University of Utah weather measurement system.

Fire officials are hopeful the moisture is the start of an early monsoon, but they said fire restrictions will stay be in place despite the weekend showers.

“As dry as it's been, it's going to take months of getting rainfall and precipitation to recover from where we've been,” said Hal Doughty, chief of the Durango Fire Protection District. “So I would absolutely not anticipate that fire restrictions are going to be lifted.”

Doughty said he remains concerned about the lack of rain in parts of La Plata County, and as well as the fire danger posed by lightning and wind.

DFPD Fire Marshal Karola Hanks said wind dries out vegetation, even if it has been recently dampened by rain.

“If we pick up winds, it'll take the moisture we've had and dry everything out real quick,” she said. “So I'd rather not have wind for a little while and let this moisture set and do some real good work on the vegetation.”

Hanks said fire crews have been checking lightning reports on a daily basis.

The National Weather Service predicts rain throughout the week ahead but in small amounts. Scott Stearns, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said there is a possibility for Durango to receive a tenth of an inch of rain every afternoon.

“In terms of best chance of precipitation, it's probably Wednesday afternoon at the low elevations and continues Thursday,” he said. “Then, things look to retreat up into the mountains for Friday, Saturday and then chances increase again on Sunday (next week).”

Doughty asked again that people keep fire safety in mind.

“We're still in a significant drought cycle,” he said. “I think this is a great first step. If the weather forecasters are right and this is the start of our monsoon season and we get productive rains, then we're hopeful that we can get out of this drought.”

tbrown@durangoherald.com

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