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Rainy July brings relief

Michele Ely uses the cloud-covered Sandias as a backdrop for a portrait of her husband, Woody Ely, and daughter, Jeanette Ely, at the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area in the foothills Monday. The Sandia Ranger District will reopen today, more than a month after drought conditions forced the U.S. Forest Service to close the mountains.  (roberto e. rosales/JOURNAL)
Michele Ely uses the cloud-covered Sandias as a backdrop for a portrait of her husband, Woody Ely, and daughter, Jeanette Ely, at the Elena Gallegos Picnic Area in the foothills Monday. The Sandia Ranger District will reopen today, more than a month after drought conditions forced the U.S. Forest Service to close the mountains. (roberto e. rosales/JOURNAL)
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Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Dust off your hiking boots, but keep your rain gear handy.

A parched New Mexico is finally seeing some much-needed rain, prompting the U.S. Forest Service to reopen the Sandia Ranger District east of Albuquerque, effective at 8 a.m. today.

Also opening this morning is most of the Rio Grande bosque.

Rainfall is still only half of normal for the year to date. But storms in recent days have boosted levels to above normal for July – and the month is only half over.

The openings mean hikers can hit La Luz Trail and other popular Sandia hiking destinations this weekend after extreme fire conditions forced closure of the entire ranger district on June 10.

“We have had enough moisture and high humidity that we’re able to open the area safely,” said Karen Takai, spokeswoman for the Sandia Ranger District of Cibola National Forest.

The Mountainair Ranger District will remain closed for now, Takai said.

Albuquerque officials said they had not decided Monday whether to reopen the bosque to public access. Albuquerque spokeswoman Dayna Gardner said she expects the city to announce a decision today.

But the bosque will reopen at 8 a.m. today in areas outside Albuquerque, including Corrales, said Derrick Lente, a member of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District board.

The conservancy district will reopen about 30,000 acres of bosque under its jurisdiction from Cochiti Dam south to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Lente said.

The National Weather Service reported good, widespread rainfall totals this month and more wet stuff is likely across New Mexico this week as a low-pressure system tracks east across the state.

The Albuquerque International Sunport received 1.09 inches in July through Monday, or about a half-inch above average for the month, the agency reported.

For 2013, rainfall remains about half of normal. The Sunport has received 1.79 inches for the year, short of the normal rainfall of 3.79 inches.

But for July at least, the news has been good.

Sandia Park recorded 1.3 inches during a 10-day period through Monday. Los Lunas received 1.51 inches and Rio Rancho up to 1.8 inches in the same period.

The 10-day average for the entire Sandia and Manzano mountain ranges was 0.73 inches.

The low-pressure system tracking east across New Mexico will bring a large amount of moisture into the state, said Jennifer Palucki, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Isolated showers and thunderstorms are predicted across the Albuquerque area today, with high temperatures in the low 80s.

Moisture from the low-pressure system will linger across the state throughout the week as temperatures rise into the 90s, resulting in scattered showers and thunderstorms statewide, Palucki said.

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