The heat is on


Does it seem a little hot in Pagosa Country to you?

AccuWeather calls the weather that we are experiencing a “record-smashing heat wave.”

That it is. 

A press release from AccuWeather states: “Death Valley, California, the record-holder for the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, 134 degrees Fahrenheit, could come fairly close to that mark later this week as an extraordinary heat wave tightens its grip on the West. And that isn’t the only location that will stamp new marks in the weather history books with this heat surge, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. 

“Forecasters say this current heat wave won’t just be remembered for its intensity, but also for its duration.”

Pagosa Springs isn’t Death Valley, but this week’s heat has been off the charts. Wednesday was supposed to be the hottest day of the year.

The release goes on to quote Meteorologist Paul Pastelok: “Temperature departures from the Southwest to Montana can average 10-20 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Some areas will even have temperatures up to 25 degrees above normal.” 

We were shocked on Monday to hear of a dog in distress in a car with the windows up in the parking lot of a local retail establishment. 

You don’t deserve to own a dog if you leave it in a car in this heat. 

On a 90-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes. In 30 minutes, it can get up to 130 degrees. This can be fatal.

Not only should you not leave your dog in the car in this heat, you shouldn’t take your pet for walks on hot surfaces such as asphalt. 

When it is 77 degrees outside, asphalt can get as hot as 125 degrees in the sunshine. On a week like this week, if it is 87 degrees, asphalt can get up to 143 degrees. 

You can fry an egg in five minutes on asphalt that is 135 degrees. However, we don’t recommend eating an egg that has been fried on asphalt.

When it is 95 degrees outside, asphalt temperatures can reach 150 degrees or more and can scorch your dog’s paws.

Please keep your pets cool; bring them inside out of the heat. Do not leave them outside in the sun. Make sure they have plenty of water.

Common symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke in dogs include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, dry nose, visible tiredness, sunken eyes, excessive drooling, fever, discolored gums, lack of urine, rapid pulse, muscle tremors, lethargy or weakness, and vomiting or diarrhea.

Don’t just take care of your pets in this high heat; take care of yourself as well. You need plenty of water, too. Leave outdoor activity for cooler temperatures.

Do we have to remind you that you shouldn’t leave your kids in the car in this heat? Tragically, children have perished after being forgotten in hot vehicles. 

Children, seniors, people with heart and lung conditions, and those suffering from asthma are the most at risk in this heat. Be sure to check on elderly family, friends and neighbors and anyone with chronic medical conditions.

AccuWeather states that rainfall opportunities will be limited this week, “though there may be an uptick in storms in the Four Corners region as the week progresses.”

They are calling for “pop-up afternoon thunderstorms,” stating “lightning from these storms may also start new fires.”

Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t conform to Archuleta County’s fire restrictions, which went into place Wednesday.

It’s not just hot out there, it is dry, too. Very dry. Weather Underground shows that humidity will be decreasing next week. 

Low humidity coupled with high heat creates prime conditions for fire.

On Sunday, June 9, 2002, the temperature was 86 degrees and humidity was 12 percent when a spark of unknown origin fell on the lower Missionary Ridge Road north of Durango. Thirty-nine days later, 46 homes and cabins had been destroyed and nearly 73,000 acres were scorched by the fire. 

Ten years later, on May 13, 2012, a lightning strike ignited a fire in the Piedra area northwest of Pagosa Springs.

As reported in The SUN: “At first, U.S. Forest Service personnel let the blaze continue burning for the benefit of the natural resources, with the area previously identified as one in which fire would be allowed to play its natural role.

“Several days of low relative humidity and high winds later, the fire — known as the Little Sand Fire — became an uncontained wildfire that had grown to several thousand acres and was being fought by hundreds of firefighters.

“As the summer progressed, so did the fire, with roads, trails and campgrounds closed and evacuations called for some properties in the upper Piedra area.

“By July 3, the fire had grown to 24,450 acres.”

The following year, on June 5, 2013, the West Fork Fire was sparked by lightning west of the Continental Divide near Born’s Lake northeast of Pagosa Springs, in an area difficult to access. 

Eight days later, on June 13, the Windy Pass Fire began from a lightning strike 12 miles northeast of Pagosa Springs, near the Windy Pass Trail.

Three days later, the two fires were managed as the West Fork Complex.

On June 20, evacuations were announced and U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass was closed.

The next day, on June 21, the town of South Fork was put under mandatory evacuation. Colo. 149 between South Fork and Creede was closed.

A third fire, the Papoose Fire, grew to more than 11,000 acres and was added to the management of the West Fork Complex on June 22.

Two days later, on June 24, members of the Colorado National Guard were called in to help.

On June 28, most residents of South Fork were allowed to return home. 

On June 29, U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass and Colo. 149 reopened as desperately needed rain fell over the area and containment of the fire grew to 2 percent.

The last incident update for the West Fork Complex was July 19, 2013, with 66 percent containment and a total of 109,615 aces burned. Smoke continued to be visible in the region for days.

Recent weather conditions bring back the memories of those smoke-filled skies and days and days of viewing billowing plumes of smoke.

We encourage you to stay cool, stay hydrated, stay safe and be diligent. 

Terri Lynn Oldham House