After a period of high temperatures in early July, afternoon rain showers have brought cooler temperatures to Southwest Colorado. But the National Weather Service said the rains will grow in intensity during the coming week.
Heavy rains and flash floods are expected over the next five days across Western Colorado, particularly in the San Juan Mountains late Saturday and continuing through Sunday. Burn scars from recent wildfires could cause mud and debris slides, according to the National Weather Service Office in Grand Junction.
The tropical moisture heading north will also increase the likelihood of thunderstorms over the next week.
The Colorado Department of Transportation said highways in mountainous areas could present challenging driving conditions and reminded drivers to drive cautiously during the storms.
“Some roadways have already experienced incidents of flash flooding, mudslides and rock falls over the past few weeks,” CDOT said in a news release.
The department warns motorists to avoid driving through a flooded area because “even 8 to 10 inches of water can float an average-sized car.”
Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch and San Juan National Forest warn hikers, bikers and other recreationists to be cautious this weekend when traveling through the forest and mountains.
“The transition can happen pretty quickly,” said Lorena Williams, San Juan National Forest spokeswoman. Flash floods can make trickling streams run rapidly and trigger mudslides that roll rocks and debris downhill. In other words, peaceful, scenic wildlife areas can turn treacherous quickly during heavy rains.
Williams said she encourages forest visitors and mountain hikers to go early before the afternoon heat and monsoon hits.
Lightning is another danger in the San Juan Mountains during a thunderstorm, not only for nearby hikers but for their potential to start wildfires.
The Center for Diseases Control and Prevention lists lightning safety tips on its website, which the Durango Interagency Fire Dispatch also recommends for people traveling through backcountry during a storm, such as waiting 30 minutes after a storm to continue hiking and staying away from water and single trees in the mountains.