Warm day, high winds wreak havoc
Warm, blustery conditions in the Grand Valley toppled power lines and traffic lights Sunday and hastened melting of the super-sized snowpack in the high country, a harbinger of potential flooding later this week.
The valley and much of western Colorado and eastern Utah were under a wind advisory most of the day Sunday, as a low-pressure system swept through the area and winds gusted up to 61 mph at Grand Junction Regional Airport, according to John Kyle, data acquisition program manager for the National Weather Service.
Kyle said such strong winds aren’t unusual in May, but they created a brown haze that obscured views of Grand Mesa and Colorado National Monument and left a gritty taste in the mouths of anyone who ventured outdoors.
Firefighters and emergency responders stayed busy throughout the day with calls of downed or dangling utility lines stretching from Clifton to Fruita.
A cold front on the heels of the system was expected to drop the high in Grand Junction today to the mid-60s and carry with it a 40 percent chance of rain. But the respite will be brief.
Forecasters are calling for highs to return to the 80s Tuesday and remain there through next weekend. Overnight lows, which have been sinking into the 40s, will instead be in the mid- to upper 50s.
A report issued Sunday by the Weather Service indicates that flooding is possible later this week for waterways in northwest and west-central Colorado and northeast Utah.
Officials say those waterways should increase to flood levels starting the middle of this week and that flows will increase through the first weekend of June.
Basins most susceptible to flooding include the Elk, Little Snake, Yampa, Colorado, North Fork of the Gunnison and Crystal rivers in western Colorado, according to the Weather Service.
A cooler-than-normal start to last week has yielded to seasonal and what will soon be above-average temperatures, causing the Colorado River to rapidly fill. The river at Cameo was running at 18,900 cubic feet per second Sunday, nearly 4,000 cfs higher than Friday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Law-enforcement and emergency-management officials have advised inexperienced river users to stay off the water.