Weather balloon launch

Mountain zone fire manager Chris Naccarato and meteorologist Aviva Braun launch a weather balloon at the Chaffee County Fairgrounds Monday. An attachment to the balloon measures temperature, wind and dew point as it goes up in the atmosphere and transmits data via radio in real time.

Although a fire weather watch is in effect this week, reports from the National Weather Service show promising signs of moisture in the Salida area and high country.

The NWS Pueblo office issued a fire weather watch for the region Wednesday afternoon and evening.

A fire weather watch means conditions – low humidity and strong winds – will be favorable for the rapid ignition, growth and spread of fires.

Relative humidity Wednesday could be as low as 10 percent, and gusts could reach 35 mph.

Four counties, Chaffee, Lake, Teller and Fremont, as well as the San Luis and Wet Mountain valleys, are included in the fire watch.

However, fire-damping conditions may be on the way.

Rain and snow could arrive in the region within the week, said Kathy Torgerson of the NWS.

Late Wednesday, the valley could see snow on mountain peaks. Precipitation at higher elevations is expected in the Decker Fire area Wednesday night, Torgerson said.

The NWS forecast calls for a strong storm from the Pacific Ocean to hit the region Wednesday through Friday. The system will bring strong winds and much colder air.

By Thursday morning, snow is predicted over the central mountains and will move southeast during the day.

Accumulating snow is likely across the mountains and lower elevations.

How much snow was still not clear, Torgerson said.

A hard freeze is likely Thursday night. Over the mountains and valleys, temperatures will fall to the teens and single digits.

Significant damage to vegetation is likely, including trees and bushes, due to very cold temperatures, snow and wind.

Snow is predicted to largely bypass Salida. It’s possible the city could see a few snowflakes Thursday morning, but they would be gone by the afternoon, Torgerson said.

Snow could be more significant in the Sangre de Cristos, Torgerson said.

Temperatures are predicted to be at or below freezing on Sangres’ peaks this week.

The NWS forecast for the Sangres near Salida call for highs of 34 and 32 on Thursday and Friday with lows of 12 and 19 for the two nights.

Buena Vista’s forecast is highs of 44 with lows of 10 and 16 Thursday and Friday nights.

Winds of 15 to 25 mph with gusts of 30 mph are in the forecast for the 2 days in the higher elevation areas toward the weekend.

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