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Snow! Glorious snow!

Snow covers a Castle Rock Fire Rescue truck, parked as firefighters working on the East Troublesome Fire wait out the snowstorm. (Photo courtesy of Firefighter/Paramedic Nolan Devine)

Never have so many people wished so fervently for a snowstorm. Forest fires were ravaging northern Colorado on Friday. Thousands had been evacuated from their homes in Grand Lake, Granby, Estes Park, and surrounding areas. Exhausted firefighters kept fighting, doing everything in their power to stop fires that seemingly wouldn’t be stopped. Even as smoke and clouds prevented aerial assaults, the men and women on the ground fought on.

Hurry, snowstorm. Hurry.

And finally, Saturday afternoon, the flakes began to fall. Sparsely at first. Scarcely distinguishable from the falling ash. Evacuees and the entire state went to bed that night, full of both dread and hope.

Then Sunday dawned, gorgeous and white. Heavy snow kept falling throughout the day and people rejoiced. Firefighters. Evacuees. Property owners. Citizens across the state. You could almost hear the sighs of relief, the prayers of gratitude.

And the voracious fires lay down.

No, they haven’t been extinguished. They merely slumber beneath a blanket of cold, wet snow. Waiting. Waiting until the sun and warmth and drought reassert themselves in a few days. Meanwhile, firefighters take a deep breath or two before continuing their work.

The fires will rise again, but weaker this time. And there is renewed conviction that they will be defeated — sooner rather than later.

Last week the East Troublesome fire leaped the Continental Divide to race east toward Estes Park while the Cameron Peak fire continued to threaten from the north and northwest.

27 Comments »

    • Inside or under downed trees, logs, rubbish, etc. The forests that are burning are full of beetle-killed trees that burn like tinder. Snow here is as likely to evaporate (called sublimation) as melt, and at best 10 inches of wet snow might equate to 1½” of rain. So they’re calling this a “season slowing” snowfall rather than the “season ending” event we need.

    • We got maybe 4″ here in Thornton. One report said as much as 24″-30″ in the northern mountains. Some totals here.
      Maybe ABQ is closer to the mountains than Thornton is; we’re about 10 miles east of the foothills.

      • The mountains next to ABQ (Sandia Mtns) are not large enough to be a contributor to our weather. We’re 30 miles south of Santa Fe which is where the “real” mountains start. Our whole city was blown away when we got that much snow. Most melted yesterday and the rest is melting today. It as just 80 degrees a few days ago so the ground isn’t anywhere near frozen. It was nice to have the precipitation tho.

        • Oh, I can imagine. I looked at your drought map and NM is every bit as bad as CO. This year was our hottest, driest summer (and fall) on record. I was thinking your Sandias were bigger. But I have only been there once, about 50 years ago.

        • They look a bit more formidable than they are just because the city comes right up next to them. Plus the city drops down into the Rio Grande valley. It’s a pretty good elevation change for a short distance. I went up on the tram once and it was quite a bit more steeper and higher than I had expected. It was a beautiful ride. Quite a bit colder at the top, too. I lived in the East Mountains when I first moved here. Was at about 7,200 ft elevation. I loved it up there. Everyone always calls Denver the Mile-high city, but Albuquerque is also a mile-high.

        • lol. Yup. We’re a mile-high here, too. 5280′ to a mile. ABQ, on average as we have a significant elevation change due to butting up against the Sandias and having Rio Grande river run through the center of town, is 5312′. Then you have Santa Fe at 7199′. Many homes don’t have A/C in Santa Fe as it only gets super-hot a couple weeks during the summer.

  1. Even here they are showing the snow scenes in Ft. Collins, Estes, and Denver.
    Never more welcomed
    (Stocking up for another shut down? All this is really hard on those who depend on tourists’ money to pay the bills)
    Stay snug! ( 8 degrees? – now that more than cool!)

    • At least the skiers are happy. Tourism is so big in Colorado; so many little businesses are hurting, or gone. It’s been — and still is — a disastrous year here.

      (Hey, we’re all the way up to 37 degrees at the moment. And it’s sunny, not smoky! Whee!)

      • Some of the ski schools have canceled little kid classes – Moms and dads are going to have to alternate fun and supervisions of littles – but it’s snow! What more do you need?
        Hopefully there won’t be travel bans over the holidays/early next year. Too crushing in so many ways to so many
        (Sleet in north and West TX. We just have damp and grey – hopefully the front Wed will be strong enough to give us some sun.)

        • The ski resorts will of course be making accommodations for Covid. After all, that’s where Colorado’s first case appeared. But the skiers are still pumped.

        • One of my nieces lives/works as a PA in Vail. She caught COVID early on, but recovered. They all blame the tourists.
          We have a friend in his 90’s who rides bike marathons and skis full days – he’s hoping the slopes will be less crowded if tourists stay home….resorts/restaurants probably won’t be as enthusiastic
          The front is here – cooler and turned the hurricane, so can’t complain about the drizzle

        • As I recall, it was a tourist from Europe. Still, it’s the tourists that keep the ski resorts in business, so hard to complain.
          Glad you’re getting some moisture, and not in hurricane form. Our snowstorm became an ice storm in Oklahoma City, so my relatives there aren’t real happy.

        • Well, when people come all the way from overseas to ski here, the resorts can’t get too upset. I guess. I’m not a skier so can’t really appreciate the situation.

      • Doing my best. If I could just count on my husband. Fourth time of quarantining myself in our house, because he “forgets”…or thinks going into high risk areas are ok, because he only lifts his mask to take a drink. Not good times.

  2. Turns out the snow was a mixed blessing for the firefighters. It made roads difficult or impassable at times. And the accompanying frigid temperatures froze the water in their hoses.

  3. Oh my gosh…those poor firefighters. Is it time to fight fires from the air for the most part, or is on the ground still more effective?
    Living alone, my sister does too and she values being able to come home and yell at the television.
    Stay safe my friend.

    • They get air tankers and helicopters on these fires immediately. Often the terrain is so steep there’s no other way to attack them. The usual approach has always been both air and ground attack, although high winds and/or heavy smoke can keep the aircraft on the ground. The snow really helped knock them down, but with a dry week and 70-degree temps coming up, the fight will continue, though on a much smaller scale.

"Nothing is more dangerous than ignorance and intolerance armed with power." ~ Voltaire

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