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A welcome bit of weather

Naomi Havlen

Relief. That’s what Wednesday’s and Thursday’s rain felt like for a lot of locals after a long, hot, dry summer.But no one looked skyward with a smile like that of Darryl Grob, chief of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department.”As they say, to farmers and firefighters, rain is a good thing,” he said. Pitkin County has been under a fire ban since early June due to dry conditions. The ban is still in place – and probably will be until the snow starts to fly – but for now, moisture has been restored to the fine grasses that dry out quickly without rain. And while it improves the current fire danger, Grob said, grasses and bushes drying out and dying is just part of the fall wildfire season.”They brown out and as a consequence they become very flammable,” he said. “It’s a normal pattern that typically happens the last week of August through the first couple of weeks in September.”Plus, the Aspen area is in the midst of a prolonged drought; it will take “a couple of fairly wet seasons to rebuild the moisture content in the forest,” Grob said, especially for trees. When it comes to lifting the fire ban in Pitkin County, Grob, Sheriff Bob Braudis and other fire chiefs in the valley must consider the entire county – including the especially dry conditions in Basalt and Carbondale. So, for the short term, Grob and other fire officials must patiently wait for trees and shrubs to return to safer levels of moisture content.To what do we owe the most recent cloudbursts? Paul Frisbie, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said Wednesday’s and Thursday’s storm came in from the Pacific Northwest.”It’s not anything particularly unusual – we get the occasional moisture surges in the month of August,” Frisbie said. Aspen’s average rainfall for the month is 1.8 inches; we’re currently at .47 inches, he said.Clouds and occasional thundershowers should continue for the next few days, he added.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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