Southern Colorado

There's a cycle that starts when the snow melts and the earth thaws high in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. It's a seasonal cycle based on timing and temperature, two variables that climate change is pushing increasingly out of sync.

To the outsider, it can be hard to see: Plants still grow, flowers bud, bears awake, and marmots breed. Broad-tailed hummingbirds still trill around a landscape that evokes the opening scene of The Sound of Music, with flowery meadows and granite peaks.

Courtesy Colorado Department of Agriculture

The Colorado State Fair has a new general manager this year. Scott Stoller was appointed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and started his new role at the beginning of July. Stoller comes from the Silver Dollar Fair in Chico, California where he managed all aspects of the fair. 91.5 KRCC’s Abigail Beckman sat down with him to discuss his new job.

Colorado Department of Transportation Facebook

The Spring Fire burning in southern Colorado is now 55% contained, up from 43% on Saturday. It's burned 106,985 acres. The Colorado Department of Transportation has reopened Highway 160 between La Veta and Fort Garland. Colorado Highway 12 remains closed from La Veta to Cuchara Pass. Colorado 69 will also stay closed from near Walsenburg to the Huerfano/Custer County Line. Local traffic will be allowed on 69; proof of residence is required.

Spring Fire 2018 Facebook page / Rocky Mountain Indicident Management

The Spring Fire in southern Colorado is now 105,704 acres and 35% contained. The Colorado Department of Transportation anticipates reopening Highway 160 on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Colorado 12 will remain closed from La Veta to the summit of Cuchara Pass. Colorado Highway 69 will remain closed to all except local traffic; proof of residence is required. Some evacuation notices in Huerfano County have been lifted.

Courtesy Spring Fire 2018 Facebook page

The Spring Fire continues to grow quickly, with reports showing a burn area of more than 94,125 acres. That's an increase of 10,000 acres since previously reported. Containment has remained steady at 5%. Most of the land is under private ownership, while state and federal lands are also affected.

@CSP_Alamosa/Twitter

The total acreage burned by the Spring Fire continues to grow. As of Tuesday morning, officials say 78,941 acres, more than 120 square miles has been effect. The containment level of the fire decreased to 5% Tuesday, down from 10% the day before. 104 homes are confirmed destroyed.

BLM, Esri, HERE, Garmin, USGS, NGA, EPA, USDA, NPS / Inciweb

Authorities have arrested a suspect on arson charges related to the Spring Fire burning in Costilla and Huerfano Counties in southern Colorado. Jesper Jorgenson, 52, was arrested without incident by Costilla County deputies in an investigation that also included the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, state arson investigators, Colorado State Patrol, and Immigration and Customs agents. The investigation is still ongoing, and no further information is available.

courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation

Update 5:39 p.m., Friday 6/29/18: In Huerfano County, mandatory evacuations are in place for residents in Tres Valles, Paradise Acres, Raspberry Mountain, Pine Haven, and the Cuchara Valley. At this time, La Veta is not part of the mandatory evacuation but remains on pre-evacuation notice. 

Any large animals being held at the 4H barn in La Veta can stay, but a secondary location is open at the Las Animas County Fairgrounds.

Voices continue to mount against the Trump administration's plan to lease land for oil drilling near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado. The Bureau of Land Management plans to lease more than 20,000 acres of land starting in early September, some of which comes within a mile of the park.

A warm spring has already melted much of the limited snowpack that sits high in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. Water is already flowing through the ditches near the rural village of San Pablo.

It’s 9 a.m. on a windy Saturday morning. Every now and then Dan Quintana -- in weathered work gloves and a ball cap -- raises up his shovel and slams it into the mud and matted willows that line the waterway that runs through his hay fields. His slight frame makes it easy for him to jump across the narrow ditch.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to put up more than 20,000 acres of Colorado land for lease by oil and gas drilling companies. Much of that land sits near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

National Weather Service

Days of warm temperatures, high winds, and low humidity across the southern Colorado region have seen Red Flag Warnings and a number of fires crop up. A Red Flag Warning means conditions are ideal for the start and spread of wildfires, including dry fuels, low relative humidities, and gusty winds.

Crowley County: A 'Poster Child' for Less Water?

May 26, 2017
Dana Cronin / 91.5 KRCC

Family farms line the southern reaches of the Arkansas River in Colorado. The agricultural community there depends on the river's yearly flows for crop irrigation. But with predictions of less water in the future, the region could face tradeoffs over the coming decades.

Dana Cronin / 91.5 KRCC

Outdoor sports dominate the Upper Arkansas River Valley, with attractions like white water rafting and fly fishing drawing tourists from across the country. With climate scientists predicting reduced flow as the century unfolds, the region could face a future with less water.

Dana Cronin / 91.5 KRCC

The Arkansas River supports economies in Colorado from Leadville to La Junta and beyond. With base industries including tourism and agriculture, southern Colorado depends on the river's yearly flows. But climate researchers expect declines in those flows over time, leaving the Arkansas River and its dependents at risk of facing a future with less water.

Training Underway at Piñon Canyon

Apr 25, 2017
Holly Pretsky / 91.5 KRCC

Training is underway at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeast Colorado with the Army's 1st Stryker Brigade.

Officials say this is the largest training exercise ever to take place at the site, with about 5,500 soldiers participating.

Meredith Turk / 91.5 KRCC

 


Peak Curiosity is a new, community-driven reporting series from 91.5 KRCC. We ask listeners to submit their questions about the Pikes Peak region and Southern Colorado, and then we answer them. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to submit your question!

For this installment of Peak Curiosity, we set out to answer a question from a resident of Pueblo, CO:

 

"I read that Pueblo's Temple Emanuel on Grand Ave. was founded in 1900. Tell us about the Jewish history of this region."

Andrea Chalfin / 91.5 KRCC

Extreme winds in southern Colorado Monday prompted the closures of the El Paso County Courthouse and Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) also placed restrictions on high profile commercial vehicles on El Paso County roads.  The department also barred the vehicles, including semi- and tractor- trailers, from Interstate 25 between Monument and the New Mexico state line after multiple rollover accidents.  This restriction was lifted around 7:40 Monday evening.

Deborah Bathke / National Drought Mitigation Center

Colorado residents have been enjoying unusually warm weather so far this fall, but that means drought conditions throughout the state.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows most of Colorado in some state of dry or drought conditions.  That's compared to about 20% last year at this time.

Mark Wankowski is a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Pueblo. He says we're likely to have snow in the northern mountains this winter, but it will probably stay dry in the southern part of the state.

Holly Pretsky / KRCC

Hundreds of cyclists passed through southeast Colorado this past weekend for the fifth annual Pedal the Plains ride.

courtesy Pedal the Plains

The fifth annual Pedal the Plains bike ride is set to begin Friday in Ordway. The three-day 150-mile ride will take place in the Lower Arkansas River Valley this year, passing through Ordway, Fowler and La Junta.

Job Creation in Southern Colorado the Target of Grant

Mar 15, 2016

A planning grant totaling more than $80,000 was recently awarded to the Southern Colorado Economic Development District for creating jobs in Southern Colorado.

National Weather Service - Pueblo

The Winter Storm Warning that blanketed much of Colorado over the past several days is lifting piece by piece as the snowstorm moves out of the state. It leaves behind record-breaking snowfall in some places, and communities with closed schools and government offices.

Steve Wilson / Flickr - Creative Commons

Efforts to fund much-needed repairs to Amtrak's Southwest Chief line got an extra boost Monday as the U. S. Department of Transportation awarded $15.2 million to the project.  Combined with matching funds, the grant, known as a TIGER grant, totals $24.5 million.
 

"This is really a huge win," said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who also heads the state's Southwest Chief commission. "And [it] shows that if you put aside your differences, you forget about party, if you forget about state lines, if you all work together you can accomplish great things."

Thursday Newscast, 10/8/15, 5:32 PM

Oct 8, 2015

 Newscast for Thursday, October 8, 2015, 5:32 PM:
 

Wednesday Newscast, 9/16/15, 7:20 AM

Sep 16, 2015

Newscast for Wednesday, September 16, 2015, 7:20 AM:
 

Steve Wilson / Flickr - Creative Commons

The Colorado Department of Transportation Commission voted unanimously to approve $1 million to help preserve the Southwest Chief rail line in southern Colorado. It's part of a route that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles.

The aging track needs major upgrades or Amtrak will have to reroute the line out of Colorado and parts of New Mexico and Kansas. The train stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad, in southeastern Colorado.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Colorado’s Southwest Chief commission met Friday, just days after $1.5 million in funding amendments were stripped from the House’s state budget proposal and another funding bill was put on indefinite hold. 

The commission is tasked with finding money for the route, including needed repairs to the tracks and for possibly adding a stop in Pueblo. 
 

David Simeral / Western Regional Climate Center

The recent pile up of snow in southern Colorado is helping to ease the state’s drought conditions.  KRCC’s Dana Cronin reports.
 

The U.S. Drought Monitor says about 63% of the sate is dealing with abnormally dry or drought conditions compared with 72% at this time last year.

The precipitation in southern Colorado is above average, says Larry Walrod, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.  Walrod also says NOAA recently released an El Niño advisory.

A bill in Colorado’s Senate that seeks funding to help preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route passed out of committee today on a 5-2 vote. 

This comes on the heels of a report from the state’s Southwest Chief Commission that says the original expected $40 million share to help save the long distance route has been knocked down to 8.91 million, due in part to a federal transportation grant and negotiations with BNSF Railway, the company that owns the tracks. 

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