Colorado looking to dry out over next few days, though storm risk remains



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DENVER — A soggy Colorado was looking forward to clearer, calmer skies over the next few days — though forecasters warned another Pacific storm could send a watery wallop next weekend.

Colorado would see more isolated afternoon storms in the next few days, forecasters said Sunday. That's after a multiday pattern of intense, violent storms that have damaged homes and whipped branches to the ground.

The storms' first injury came Saturday, when a man was struck by lightning in Colorado Springs after a cricket match. The man, identified by witnesses as Venkat Ramani, was hospitalized with burns but expected to survive, KKTV reported (http://bit.ly/1cEZOjQ).

"It looked like someone had taken a torch to his clothes," said Chris Ciccolella, who witnessed the strike and ran to help.

The series of violent storms included almost a dozen confirmed tornadoes since Thursday. No injuries were reported, though homes in Berthoud and on Colorado's Eastern Plains were damaged.

Two weak tornadoes touched down Saturday in southern Utah during slow, powerful storms that swept through the state.

The storms moved into the northern and central Plains, including in the Dakotas, Nebraska and into parts of Minnesota and Iowa. On Sunday, central Iowa residents picked up fallen tree limbs and dealt with other minor damage from the overnight storms. The storms knocked down trees and traffic lights with 55 mph winds.

The storms were the result of the El Nino phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean, an upper-level jet stream and a low-pressure system parked over Southern California.

Forecasters say another Pacific storm could deliver rains by the end of the week. Hurricane Blanca was headed Sunday for Mexico's Baja California Peninsula. Forecasters say Blanca could produce more rains in Colorado by Thursday or Friday, a special concern in areas prone to flooding and in sections of the state still lacking ground cover after wildfires in 2013.

The rains have been good news in some ways, though. Hydrologists with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation have been able to release surplus water from reservoirs above the Upper Colorado River to mimic natural spring runoff.

That's about the opposite of what reservoir operators typically do as they try to store water for times of drought, prevent floods and generally even out flows throughout the year, the Summit Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/1eWFGeG ).

"We hydrologists were just so happy with all this rain," said Jana Mohrman, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hydrologist with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

The program works to improve water flows for four endangered fish species — the humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail and the Colorado pikeminnow.

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