Category Archives: Weather & Climate

Reports, discussion, and other thoughts on Zion area weather and climate

Wildflower Fans Predict Bountiful Desert Blooms This Spring

I once heard Navajo culture characterizes summer’s thunderous, pounding, here-and-gone summer rains as the “male” rains, while winter’s softer, longer, more consistent rains are the “female” rains. I don’t know whether Navajos actually do talk or think about rain this way, but such characterizations make a lot of sense to me. While summer rains get all the press, with their ominous cumulus clouds and their brash flash-flood inducing comings and goings, winter rain is what nurtures and propogates our plants, animals (including homo sapiens). Just like a real momma. Winter in the desert carries a big question mark, and that question mark belongs to precipitation. How much will fall? When will it fall? Will it fall as water, or as snow? How much water we receive, and the quality of that receipt, is perhaps the most significant factor in the desert year. While the hot, hard, baked earth of summer can’t hope to absorb the torrential blasts of the monsoon season, winter’s supple, porous soils soak up the water it receives to feed the plants, animals, and water table for the remainder of the year. One of many special interest groups focused on winter precipitation is the “wildflower lobby”. These … Continue reading

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Zion Reopens After 3-Day Closure

Zion National Park press release from yesterday. If you are in the Park or coming soon, check out this release and/or stop in at the Visitor’s Center to ascertain which trails are open and which aren’t quite open yet. The largest inconvenience for most visitors will be the road closure on the East Side, preventing thru-access to Mount Carmel and State Route 89. Zion National Park News Release December 23, 2010 For Immediate Release Ron Terry 435 772-0160 10-66 Zion Canyon Reopens The Zion Canyon section of Zion National Park reopened to the public on Thursday morning. Some trails remain closed until a damage assessment and necessary repairs can be completed. The National Park Service has completed an assessment of roads and facilities following the recent storm. The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive has been reopened with a short section of one lane traffic south of the Court of the Patriarchs. Watchman Campground has been reopened and the Zion Lodge will be reopening at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 23. The Pa’rus Trail along the Virgin River is open. Upper Emerald Pools is accessible only via the Kayenta Trail from the Grotto. Lower and Middle Emerald Pools trails are closed due … Continue reading

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Sunshine Peeks Through Today In Zion

After another morning of rain, the sun finally made an appearance this afternoon, the first time we have seen the sun since last Friday. The Beatles song “Here Comes the Sun” ran through my mind when the blue sky and yellow light first came into my view. With the road open, I decided to escape Springdale. I headed “down the hill,” as the locals say, to St. George for a visit to the Pizza Factory and a movie. The drive was pretty interesting, as State Route 9 runs parallel to the Virgin River en route to St. George and there were many changes to observe along the way. Mosquito Cove BLM Campground is covered in sticks and flood sand. Pools of standing water are still there. The flood was not kind to a few parts of the Virgin River Resort RV Park Campground. Devastated by the great North Creek Flood of 2007, it was painful for me to see that though they remain open, they were hit again by high waters. I took my dog, Myles, to the Springdale River Park late this afternoon for a walk. The log and tree debris was quite impressive. A large cottonwood had toppled … Continue reading

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Flooding Fears Easing in Zion This Morning

At 6:40 this morning, I was awakened by the sounds of the garbage truck reverberating through my neighborhood. This is not normally a significant event, but on this particular morning, it suggests State Route 9 is open from St. George to Springdale. I peer out the window. Though it is not yet light, I can see raindrops are hitting the puddles of standing water. Low hanging clouds obscure our view of the West Temple to the west, and the Watchman to the east. It doesn’t seem to be raining hard, but that has been typical for this entire flooding experience over the last 5 days. I walked over to my computer to check the river flow, and was relieved to see the volume at 892 cfs. There was some meteorological expectation yesterday that we would see 4000 cfs again today, which seems more difficult to imagine now, with the river below 1000. Today’s forecast is for a 60% chance of rain. This suggests it might rain 100% of the time for 60% of the day, based on how things have been going. Friday’s forecast is sunny and 54. My thanks go to Qwest Communications Company for keeping the internet up … Continue reading

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Update on Flooding in Zion and Springdale

The sense of impending doom has eased quite a bit since yesterday morning, as river levels have come down quite a bit and the Trees Ranch Dam has evidently been holding strong. Folks have been bringing staged sandbags back to the supply station, and the atmosphere is definitely more relaxed. We are feeling pretty lucky to be near the top of the Virgin River watershed, as some folks downstream in Rockville, Virgin, St. George, Toquerville, Beaver Dam, Enterprise, etc. are having a much rougher go of it. After peaking around 5,300 cfs yesterday, the Springdale river gauge fell consistently overnight to under 1,000 at midday, today. It has been raining lightly today and the river is shooting back up at the moment, but the forecast is for a peak around 4,000 cfs, much better than yesterday’s 5,300 cfs. Zion National Park continues to be closed, though the Visitor’s Center was open this afternoon to provide information, answer visitor questions, etc. Expecting another river surge this afternoon, the Park expects will be closed at least through today, possibly into tomorrow. The Park hopes to open to road traffic tomorrow, but staff will need to survey road infrastructures to ensure everything is … Continue reading

Posted in In the News, Local Events, Road Conditions, Uncategorized, Videos, Weather & Climate, Zion National Park | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Virgin River Flooding, Zion Closed, Rockville and Virgin Evacuated

After 4 straight days of heavy rain, the Virgin River is rising to impressive and dangerous levels in Zion. While the river’s typical volume this time of year is under 100 cubic feet/second, the river almost reached 6000 cfs this afternoon… and the forecast for rain continues through tomorrow. Things are pretty scary here, as Mother Nature lets it all loose. The Park Service has closed and evacuated the Zion National Park, partially triggered by erosional failure of part of the Zion Scenic Drive road. This morning, Rockville mayor Alan Brown declared a State of Emergency and many Rockville residents began evacuating their homes, fearful the raging Virgin River will breach the Trees Ranch dam and rise over the flood bank and into town. As of an hour ago, the dam is reported to have a partial breach, though evidently it is still holding. Perhaps a slow breach is better than a fast one? I’m unsure how breaches work, but in any case it sounds like bad news. Below is the view from Zion Canyon Sanctuary, where Mayor Brown lives, earlier this morning… If you are coming to Zion for any reason, please keep yourself informed of the latest news … Continue reading

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Filling Sandbags to Prepare for the Flooding Virgin

“Sand bagging” is a term climbers use when a given route’s difficulty rating belies the actual, more serious difficulty of the climb. While I have been on a few sand-bag routes before, my experience with real sand bags today was less figurative and much more literal. I laid in bed this morning, half-awake, before sunrise, noticing an above-average amount of vehicle sound and light activity behind my house. The service road there by the cemetery had become a staging area for flood preparation, and a few moments later I got a text message shedding more light on the situation. “Virgin River expected to exceed 8000 cfs (cubic feet per second). Filling sand bags at the cemetery. All kinds of help needed.” I fixed some food, donned raingear, and headed over. The rain was light , but steady. Ambient air temperature was in the mid 40s. Thankfully, it wasn’t windy. When my wife and I arrived, forty people were already filling sandbags. The sand had been sitting in the rain, making for lots of slop. Soon, all who were working were soaking wet and covered in the slop up to their ankles, and from fingertips to elbows. They didn’t seem to … Continue reading

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Zion: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Today, I received many gifts. Gifts I was not expecting, nor even thinking of asking for. These gifts came from a place I often forget about, a place that gives to me everyday. Today, a very rainy day, I found gifts that brought sunshine into & out of every part of my being. After a morning meeting, I decided to do something I always recommend to visitors on a rainy day, something I always say I’m going to do, but rarely actually do: I jumped in the car and headed into the canyon looking for waterfalls. Since today was the third day of steady rain, I figured my goal would be easily met. Little did I know what awaited me… Driving through the fee gate, the ranger asked we would be hiking today. Planning only on spectating, I assured him we’d be in our car for the duration of our visit. As we headed up the State Route 9, I got my first glimpse of the Virgin River. At 2050 cfs (cubic feet per second)… wow, that’s a lot of water! A giggle of glee escaped as I watched the raging current. As we turned north up the Zion Canyon … Continue reading

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Winter Updates from Sunny Springdale

The snow of Thanksgiving weekend has melted away and we’re enjoying cloudless blue skies and sunshine in Zion Canyon. Perfect weather for adventuring. Come join us! On the agenda: Bike rides, canyoneering, climbing and hiking the narrows. Stop by the shop between 9 am – noon or 4 – 7 pm to pick up gear and get information on trail conditions. When you get hungry, here are the latest winter hours for Springdale restaurants: Arkansas Al’s Pub & Eatery – (M-F) Noon to 8pm, (Sat/Sun) 8am to 8pm Blondie’s Diner – 11 am to 8 pm Bit ‘n’ Spur (Fri-Mon) 5pm to close Cafe Soleil – 7 am to 6 pm Casas de Amigos Fresh Mex – 11am to 9pm Jack’s Sports Grill – Noon to close Mean Bean Coffee House – 7am to 1pm Oscar’s Cafe – 8am to 8pm Parrallel Eighty Eight – 5pm to 8:30pm Park House Cafe (Tue-Sun) – 8am to 2pm Pioneer Restaurant – 8am to 9pm Sol Foods Market – 9am to 6pm Thai Sapa – 11 am to 9 pm The Flying Monkey – 11am to 8pm Wildcat Willies – 8am to 8pm Zion Park Gift & Deli – (Mon-Sat) 9am to 5pm … Continue reading

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Anticipating Fall Colors in Zion

Autumn sneaks up on us in Zion. The temperatures stop breaking 100 sometime in early September, then the weather turns various shades of gorgeous for the next two months – highs in the 70′s and 70′s, crisp nights – while each day whittles back its daylight hours. For a hardwoods Midwesterner like me, it doesn’t really feel like fall until the leaves change colors, and on the canyon floor, this happens quite late.  Since the cottonwood trees along the creeks and rivers don’t take color until early November, it’s easy to forget about fall colors… sometimes I miss them altogether. But if you love fall foliage (and who doesn’t) it’s not too difficult to find it in spades around here… you just have to know where to look. Go up high. Leaves begin changing as early as mid-September in the highest regions of the Park. One of my favorite autumn drives is the loop from Springdale up to the Cedar Breaks high country and back, which typically packs a wallop of arboreal majesty. To make the most of this trip, don’t use the highway. Instead, take SR 9 from Springdale to Virgin, then turn up the Kolob Terrace Road, ascending … Continue reading

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