Relief at last! Aspen went 33 days without rain before Monday’s shower |

Relief at last! Aspen went 33 days without rain before Monday’s shower

Rain drops from a shower on Tuesday afternoon in Aspen land in the Roaring Fork River at Herron Park.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Aspen finally received some relief from the dry spell Monday evening when it received nearly the same amount of rain in a couple of hours as it did during all of June, and Tuesday was a topper to that.

The Aspen Water Plant recorded 0.22 inches of rain Monday, most of it dumping over a short time after 7 p.m. The amount of rain that came down Tuesday won’t be recorded until this morning, but suffice it to say that series of downpours trumped Monday.

So much so that Highway 82 eastbound was closed Tuesday evening for more than three hours because of rockslides near the airport.

“It really poured (Monday). That was a godsend,” said Jim Markalunas, an Aspen weather watcher for many of his 87 years. He said he thought even more rain fell at his house in the West End.

The water plant recorded only 0.28 inches of rain for the entire month of June. It rained on only three days in June, and none since June 7, when 0.25 inches fell.

Aspen went 33 days without measurable precipitation from June 7 to July 10. Average rainfall for the month is 1.21 inches, according to the water plant, which supplies data to the National Weather Service.

Rain was spotty throughout the Roaring Fork Valley on Monday evening. The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport recorded only 0.02 inches of rain. In the midvalley, some parts of Missouri Heights received a soaking rain for about 20 minutes while El Jebel received very little, according to residents there.

Markalunas said the monsoon moisture usually rolls in around the Fourth of July. It was late by a week this year.

“Those monsoons have been lazy,” he said.

Some relief is forecast this week, with varying chances of precipitation each day until Sunday. The great outdoors can use a change in the weather. Hiking and biking trails are pulverized to powder. Wildflowers have wilted. Rivers and streams are flowing below average. The Roaring Fork River just above Aspen is flowing at 124 cubic feet per second. The mean flow for July 11 is 237 cfs.

Although June was dry, it wasn’t a record for lowest precipitation total. Zero inches of rain or snow were recorded for the month in 1984 and 2002. Nevertheless, it was dry.

“It was one of the hottest and driest months I can remember,” Markalunas said.

Aspen didn’t absorb any snow for the month. The average snowfall is three-quarters of an inch, though none has fallen in Aspen in June since 2005.

The Aspen Water Plant tracks snowfall from September through June each season. The total this season was 157.65 inches, on par with the average of 155.27 inches. The record snowfall at the water plant is 250.24 inches in 2007-08.

Markalunas said he’s never witnessed it himself, but people told him they saw it snow every month of the year.

“Some old-timers said they remembered it snowing on the Fourth of July,” he said. “Mother Nature is very fickle.”

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