June sets heat records in Montezuma County

Friday, June 29, 2018 6:09 PM
Lindsey and Chris Ward, of Arvada, cool of with their children Zoe, 23 months, and Harper, 4, in the Animas River on Wednesday as temperatures climb to the mid-90s.

June in Montezuma County was a month of wildfires and record high temperatures, but it also saw an unusually high amount of rain.

Cortez meteorologist Jim Andrus said the high temperatures on June 13 and 14 broke records that had stood since the 1930s. The rainstorm that arrived just two days later dropped enough water on Montezuma County to bring it up to 220 percent of normal precipitation for the month of June. But that wasn’t enough to alleviate the drought facing the county, and so far, the monsoon that usually reaches the region in July hasn’t shown up on National Weather Service forecasts.

June 13 and 14 saw high temperatures of 95 and 96 degrees, respectively, which beat the previous records of 94 and 95 degrees recorded in 1939 and 1936. Andrus said the hottest day of the month, according to his measurements, was 98 degrees Thursday.

The rainstorm brought 0.84 inches of rain to the county, bringing the total precipitation for June to an above-average 0.88 inches. But Montezuma County’s precipitation for 2018 is only 3.07 inches, which Andrus said is 61 percent of normal.

That dryness has contributed to the Burro and 416 wildfires, which continue to burn near Rico and Durango.

Although the National Weather Service predicts that the first week of July will stay dry, Grand Junction forecaster Tom Renwick said there is a slight chance the San Juan Mountains and Montezuma County could get some moisture the following week. But the forecast for July 4 is dry and sunny, with no rain in sight.

“Wear extra sunscreen and hats,” Renwick said.

Long-term weather predictions continue to be optimistic for Southwest Colorado. The Climate Prediction Center’s 30-day forecast, based on computer models of weather patterns in the area, is predicting above-average rainfall in the Southwest once the monsoon begins in mid- to late-July.

Andrus said forecasts that far in advance should be taken with a grain of salt. He said he believes even the most accurate models are subject to the “butterfly effect” – the idea that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere in the U.S. could end up changing the future.

“When you’re talking 30 days or 90 days out, that’s a lot of butterflies,” he said.

Meanwhile, a red flag warning is in effect for the county through 9 p.m. Friday. Although Cortez and Dove Creek are still holding fireworks displays on July 4, a fire ban remains in place for both Montezuma and Dolores counties.

The San Juan National Forest encouraged the public to follow Stage 2 fire restrictions and be careful with all combustible materials to prevent human-caused fires. Fireworks are prohibited on federal lands.