Following a lackluster snow season and spotty rain throughout the spring, Colorado's Front Range is tinder dry and wildfires have become a significant problem, especially for residents of foothill communities. Over the past two days, the fire risk has increased dramatically as hot, dry, southeast winds have raked the area; while the humidity has increased a bit with this upsloping wind flow, little precipitation has developed and "dry thunderstorms" threaten to ignite more fires.
Along the urban corridor, the winds are producing a welcome "wind-chill," making the mid afternoon heat feel less intense than it might on a calm day. A stroll along the South Platte revealed water levels lower than I have encountered in many years; with much of its flow diverted for irrigation and water supply, the shallow river attests to the ongoing drought in much of the State. On the positive side, the sluggish stream attracted a variety of birds from the parched fields and woodlands, including yellow warblers, belted kingfishers, spotted sandpipers, killdeer, swallows, great blue herons and mother ducks (mallards and wood ducks) with their broods in tow.
There is some hope that the gusty, upsloping winds will produce showers and thunderstorms overnight but, even if they do, a widespread, soaking rain is not expected. As often occurs along the Front Range, the precipitation will be spotty in nature, with some areas enjoying a cloudburst and others left in the windblown dust. In reality, a significant break from our ongoing drought will probably not occur until the late summer Monsoon pumps moisture up from the Desert Southwest. Let's hope that annual relief arrives early, rescuing the Front Range from what appears to be a destructive wildfire season.