Thunderstorms bring needed moisture and might hang around

July 6, 2011

A monsoon-bred thunderstorm dumped heavy rain Wednesday across parts of El Paso and Teller counties, causing patches of street flooding, cutting power to thousands and wreaking havoc on golfers preparing for the U.S. Women’s Open.

Arriving a few weeks earlier than normal, monsoonal rains brought much-needed moisture to the Pikes Peak region, swelling creeks and offering hope of lessened fire danger.

“It helps temporarily,” said Larry Walrod, National Weather Service meterologist. “Even the higher humidity helps the firefighters. If we just get a day or two of this, it’s kind of a short term benefit.

“If we dry out again... it’s possible this moisture that’s just going into the surface level of things could evaporate.”

The rain, though, also halted practice at the long-awaited U.S. Women’s Open.

Rainfall totals ranged from a tenth of an inch at the Colorado Springs Airport to .9 inches in north Colorado Springs. Monument received .32 inches of rain while Woodland Park got .58 inches.

The rain fell quickly, causing area creeks and drainages to swell. Fountain Creek at Nevada Avenue was flowing at 50 cubic feet per second before the storm, but grew to 1,500 cfs during it.

“They’re tempting to kids,” said Walrod, of the drainages. “But often times they’re right in the spot where all the water will be running.”

Along with the rain, though, came lightning strikes that kept firefighters busy.

Several homes in Colorado Springs and El Paso County were hit, causing small fires. A homeownner in Black Forest arrived home shortly after lightning tore a hole in his house, causing a small fire that was quickly put out, said Kathy Russell, Black Forest Fire/Rescue spokeswoman.

Another lightning strike ignited a tree and surrounding grass near Calhan.

Lightning strikes caused 25 outages Wednesday, leaving 4,000 people without power — mostly in the area of Academy Boulevard and Maizeland Road, said Natalie Eckhart, Colorado Springs Utilites spokeswoman. Most of the power was restored within an hour.

The storm was unusual in that monsoonal moisture doesn’t normally hit the region until late July, Walrod said.

An upper level high pressure system moved east over the state, ushering moisture from the Pacific Region.

Early forecasts called for the moisture to hang around the region for another 7-10 days, he said.

“So we should be in a pretty steady pattern of daily thunderstorms,” Walrod said.

Call the writer at 476-1654.


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