Lots of stuff going on…

Excellent view of the smoke this morning from Austin of Rocky Mountain Balloon Adventures… Pic taken 5/19/2022

Excellent view of the smoke this morning from Austin of Rocky Mountain Balloon Adventures… Pic taken 5/19/2022

Thursday – 19 May 2022 – 10:45am

Plumtaw Fire update…

As of yesterday evening, Wednesday, 18 May 2022, the Plumtaw Fire had burned 735 acres.  Cloud cover helped limit fire growth yesterday.

Multiple agencies are involved and aggressively fighting the fire.  For updates follow “USDA Forest Service – San Juan National Forest” and “Archuleta County, CO Sheriff’s Office” on Facebook and this link on InciWeb.

A HUGE thanks to the San Juan National Forest crew and everybody else that is aggressively tackling the fire!

The Plumtaw Fire map as of 18 May 2022
The Plumtaw Fire map as of 18 May 2022

Smoke and air quality yesterday afternoon and this morning…

The map on the left is from yesterday afternoon.  The one on the right is from this morning. As expected yesterday afternoon, the southwest winds and convective mixing pushed the smoke out of town and air quality improved.  Now this morning the smoke has drained along McCabe Creek back into town and air quality is significantly worse.  This is the trend we can we expect most days – bad air quality in the mornings and better in the afternoons.
The map on the left is from yesterday afternoon.  The one on the right is from this morning. As expected yesterday afternoon, the southwest winds and convective mixing pushed the smoke out of town and air quality improved.  Now this morning the smoke has drained along McCabe Creek back into town and air quality is significantly worse.  This is the trend we can we expect most days – bad air quality in the mornings and better in the afternoons.

The past…

At Stevens Field the high yesterday afternoon was 77 and the low this morning was 37. Humidity yesterday afternoon bottomed out at 12%. Winds yesterday afternoon peaked at 30mph at 12:55pm. In O’Neal Park we hit 35mph. 

Precip summary… A few raindrops fell in a couple of spots, but it wasn’t enough to wet the ground.

Forecast discussion…

*** The Grand Junction National Weather Service has issued a RED FLAG WARNING valid 11am to 10pm Thursday. Conditions will be favorable for easy ignition and rapid spread of fires. ***

*** The Grand Junction National Weather Service has issued an AIR QUALITY HEALTH ADVISORY valid until 9am tomorrow. 

IMPACTS…Moderate to heavy smoke can be expected Thursday morning for areas in close vicinity to the Plumtaw wildfire, including Pagosa Springs. Air quality will improve by late Thursday morning as atmospheric mixing increases and smoke lifts into the atmosphere. However, periods of moderate to heavy smoke will be possible downwind to the east of the fire along the Archuleta and Mineral County line, and additional heavy smoke impacts will be possible across the San Luis Valley. By late Thursday evening smoke will begin to drain to locations south and southwest of the fire, including Pagosa Springs, bringing occasional heavy smoke through early Friday morning. *** This will be the trend for a while.

*** As of yesterday at 9am, Archuleta County implemented a STAGE 1 FIRE BAN. As of 12:01am tonight, The San Juan National Forest will enter STAGE 1 FIRE RESTRICTIONS. ***

Things have changed… The system is expected to be stronger and have more moisture and precip. Unfortunately we will just get scraps.

Key notes…

Winds – Everything I look at indicates that winds will peak in the 40-45mph range both today and tomorrow.  The NWS is under-forecasting tomorrow’s winds by 10-15mph. Normally I wouldn’t point this out, but it will impact the fire. As far as a Red Flag Warning tomorrow, humidity will creep up just a tad (low teens today and then upper teens tomorrow) which might push us barely out of Red Flag criteria. Regardless, 40-45mph winds are still trouble.

Precip – The system will approach from the northwest and then track across northern Colorado. It will favor northern Colorado and the Front Range – we will just get scraps. Slightly good news for us is that we’ll get a little precip, more clouds, and higher humidity which will help slow fire growth. I expect our mountains to get 1-3” of snow above 9,500ft.

Dust – I’m not confident that we’ll get dust.  The fetch isn’t quite right.

Travel – Northern Colorado and the Front Range are going to get impressive snow for this time of year. Travel will be impacted tomorrow and Saturday.  Additionally heavy wet snow will likely break tree branches and some folks are likely to lose power.

Satellite this morning: High cirrus clouds are moving into our area from the northwest. The system will impact mostly northern Colorado and the Front Range tomorrow and Saturday.
Satellite this morning: High cirrus clouds are moving into our area from the northwest. The system will impact mostly northern Colorado and the Front Range tomorrow and Saturday.

My forecast…

* The forecast periods are from 8am to 8am. *
* The forecast periods are from 8am to 8am. *
NWS snowfall through 6am Sunday – Quite a few locations are expecting 1-2 feet of snow.  Our mountains are only expected to get 1-3” above 9,500ft.
NWS snowfall through 6am Sunday – Quite a few locations are expecting 1-2 feet of snow.  Our mountains are only expected to get 1-3” above 9,500ft.
This is Euro ensemble wind gusts to 2 June at 6pm – The top shows wind gusts for 50 different runs of the Euro model.  I focus on the bottom which shows the mean of those runs.  The chart is read left to right with the most current time on the left.  Times are in Zulu.  I added the max wind speeds every day at 00Z/6PM for clarity.  Our peak winds usually occur between 18Z and 00Z. I look at numerous products for different forecast parameters. A good forecaster will then verify those products and their forecast against what actually happened.  Right now this product is handling daily peak wind gusts very well. Example: yesterday this product expected 30mph at Stevens Field and the actual observed peak wind was 30mph.  Today and tomorrow this ensemble forecast model expects winds to peak in the 40-45mph range and then peak around 35mph on Saturday and Sunday. Then winds will taper off for a few days.
This is Euro ensemble wind gusts to 2 June at 6pm – The top shows wind gusts for 50 different runs of the Euro model.  I focus on the bottom which shows the mean of those runs.  The chart is read left to right with the most current time on the left.  Times are in Zulu.  I added the max wind speeds every day at 00Z/6PM for clarity.  Our peak winds usually occur between 18Z and 00Z.

I look at numerous products for different forecast parameters. A good forecaster will then verify those products and their forecast against what actually happened.  Right now this product is handling daily peak wind gusts very well. Example: yesterday this product expected 30mph at Stevens Field and the actual observed peak wind was 30mph – That’s as good as it gets.

Today and tomorrow this ensemble forecast model expects winds to peak in the 40-45mph range and then peak around 35mph on Saturday and Sunday. Then winds will taper off for a few days.

Pagosa Springs historical data

Average HighRecord High / YearAverage LowRecord Low / Year
6980 / 19963118 / 1931

Mark your calendars…

Pagosa Weather is doing a presentation at the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library on Thursday, 26 May at 6pm.  We’d love to meet you and answer questions!

Pagosa Weather is also setting up a “meet and greet” booth at the Ski & Bow Rack on Friday, 27 May from noon to 4pm.  Come say hi!

Call 877-841-0247 for our “dial up and text” forecast.

I hope to do a drought and river flow update later today.  My next forecast post will be tomorrow.

– Shawn

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I’ve been a “weather geek” since I was young child. I joined the military out of high school and was lucky to get my dream job in weather. I have 20 years of military weather experience which includes forecasting the weather all over the world. Highlights were six years in Alaska and making life and death weather decisions during deployments. I love mountains, I love snow, and I love summertime thunderstorms. I spend a bunch of time playing outdoors and found my paradise in Pagosa Springs. I do Pagosa Weather as a community service. Hopefully you find us helpful!
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