A heat wave is expected to hit Southwest Colorado on Wednesday, which will likely exacerbate already high fire danger conditions.
Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said a strong ridge of high pressure is building over the region, causing temperatures to shoot up over the coming days.
In Durango, the average high for this time of year is in the mid- to upper-70s, Stackhouse said.
But on Wednesday, the expected high is 85 degrees. By the end of the week, temperatures could hit nearly 90 degrees.
“That’s 10 to 15 degrees above normal,” she said.
In Cortez, temperatures are expected to exceed 90 degrees Friday and Saturday.
During this time, there could be isolated showers in the high country of the San Juan Mountains, but no precipitation is expected in lower elevations.
“We’re in a really dry pattern,” Stackhouse said.
Fire danger was considered “very high” Tuesday, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Drought Monitor on Thursday rated most of La Plata County in an “extreme drought” category.
Since March 1, a weather station at Durango-La Plata County Airport has recorded 1.63 inches of precipitation – down about 1½ inches from normal, historic averages.
Across the San Juan National Forest, Stage 1 fire restrictions are in place. Esther Godson, spokeswoman for the Forest Service, said Tuesday the agency is evaluating Stage 2 fire restrictions with other partner agencies in the region.
“We do not have an exact time frame set for that transition just yet but anticipate it will be in the very near future with the predicted weather continuing to be hot, dry and windy,” she said.
Stage 1 fire restrictions are also in place for La Plata County. Karola Hanks, fire marshal for Durango Fire Protection District, said it is likely the region will move into Stage 2 restrictions.
“Obviously, fire conditions are extremely high already,” she said. “This (heat wave) will only compound the problem.”
Stackhouse said the heat wave will persist through the weekend. Temperatures are expected to drop by early next week but will likely remain above normal.