Spring in Grand Junction: Dusty, gusty, warm and cold

Near-record lows to give way to seasonal heat by Thursday

First came a series of blustery days capped by a miniature version of the Dust Bowl.

Then a wave of cool air moved in, potentially threatening to break this morning’s record low.

By the end of the week, high temperatures could push 90 degrees.

The Grand Valley is in the midst of a wild weather swing.

A cold front that lingered in Utah moved through western Colorado on Monday, and this morning’s forecast low of 41 degrees in Grand Junction would push the record of 38, set in 1980, according to National Weather Service forecaster Paul Frisbie.

Temperatures should rebound quickly, with today’s high reaching the mid-70s and highs surging close to 90 degrees by Thursday.

This week’s weather will stand in stark contrast to what happened over the weekend, when high-wind advisories and warnings were in effect for much of eastern Utah and western Colorado, and winds consistently gusted to 45 to 55 mph. By Sunday afternoon, a thick cloud of dust had settled over the valley, obscuring views of Colorado National Monument, the Bookcliffs and Grand Mesa and forcing indoors residents with respiratory problems.

Mesa County Environmental Health Director Steve DeFeyter said much of the dust moved in from eastern Utah and northeastern Arizona.

“From an air-quality standpoint, it was bad. When I can’t see the mesa from my front door ... I know it’s not going to be a good (day),” said DeFeyter, who lives east of Whitewater on Purdy Mesa.

DeFeyter said while he couldn’t release specific numbers because they hadn’t yet gone through quality-assurance testing, he suspects the 24-hour dust levels violated the federal particulate matter standard known as PM10. PM10 refers to particulate matter 10 microns in diameter and is typically generated by dust storms. One micron is equal to one-thousandth of a millimeter.

The federal government allows Mesa County to exceed the PM10 standard three times in a three-year period. If the standard is exceeded a fourth time, the state and local governments have to develop a plan to bring the valley’s air quality back into compliance.

The county, however, could be exempted from that standard if officials can prove the dust originated outside the valley.

Either way, DeFeyter said the persistence of the wind was unusual.

“I don’t remember when we’ve had this much wind for many years,” he said. “I was just amazed at the intensity and the duration of the wind.”


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