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Friday September 20th 2013 10:11am

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This is a big forecast update for Sunday as I'm expecting rapidly changing conditions with wind, colder air, and snow by late afternoon. Details below...

Today, Friday, will be glorious. Sunny, dry, perfect fall weather. Enjoy! For those of you who carefully read my previous forecasts, you likely expected low clouds to cover the plains this morning. This did happen from Colorado Springs south, but did not happen from Denver and north (oops!). Here's the view from the top of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs showing the low clouds.

Pikes Peak

Saturday will be another glorious day with no precipitation and just a few clouds. However, showers and storms may move into the San Juans and other western mountains near sunset or later Saturday evening, so I cannot guarantee a dry night on Saturday night if you're camping.

Sunday brings a big change with rapidly falling temperatures, high winds, and snow by mid to late afternoon. Do not be caught off guard! The day will start with a decent amount of sunshine and a few scattered showers. However, by late morning and midday, a strong cold front will approach Colorado from the west. Expect the front to come through between about 1-6pm depending on your exact location. When the front comes through, the weather will change drastically. Winds will likely gust over 40mph, temperatures will drop to near freezing around 10,000ft, and snow will likely accumulate above 10,000ft. In some of the heavier bursts of precipitation, snow could rapidly accumulate to more than 6 inches over 11,000-12,000ft. Flakes will likely fall below 10,000ft later in the afternoon and evening, and right around 10,000ft there could be some accumulation. The exact snow level will depend on the strength of the storm, and that's still a bit uncertain right now.

The big thing to keep in mind is that you will not want to drive over high mountain passes or be caught hiking up high on Sunday afternoon

Here's a graphic showing the cold front moving in on Sunday, though note that the temperatures on the map are for 18,000ft, so it's not going to get that cold where you are. I wanted to show this map because it more clearly illustrates the cold air moving in.

Cold front

Here's another forecast map showing the forecasted radar as of 3pm on Sunday afternoon. There is a lot of energy with this storm which could produce lightning and extremely heavy snow or rain when the front moves through.

Radar forecast

Most of the precipation will taper off on Sunday evening, then expect dry weather Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The next storm moves closer to Colorado on Thursday and Friday, but the newest models are showing that it will only make a glancing blow to our state as is slides to our north. Still, we'll likely see snow falling once again over the higher peaks on Thursday and Friday, and our neighbors to the north in Wyoming will see a better chance of significant snow.

Just to get you ready for winter, imagine if we were in the month of December and not September. If that were the case, I would be forecasting a last-chair Sunday / first-chair Monday powder day for this upcoming storm as many mountains would see a quick 4-8 inches (or more?) as the cold front comes through. Ah, we can only dream of days to come, right?!

From now through the season, I'll be posting daily updates so check back each day. Also, note that the snow forecasts for each mountain are still automated, and I won't start to personally update the forecasts for another few weeks.

JOEL GRATZ

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