Monday December 17th 2012 7:51am MST
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We're in for a great three days of snow - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will feature powder for many areas. Here's the deal...
The steady snow along and north of I-70 on Sunday will continue today (Monday) and Monday night into Tuesday. Steamboat will be the big winner with almost two feet of snow falling in the next two days after almost two feet of snow has fallen in the last two days. What a difference two weeks make, eh? Other areas along I-70 and even around Crested Butte, Irwin, and Monarch in the central mountains will continue to see good snow. The reason for this steady snow is a weather pattern that is "flat", meaning the winds are generally from west-to-east instead of north-to-south or visa versa. A flat pattern often means we have decent moisture streaming in from the Pacific Ocean and little bundles of storm energy (vorticity) moving through the flow every 6-12 hours to enhance the snowfall. Slight adjustments can mean all the difference (less or more moisture, slightly different wind direction, etc), so I didn't want to jump on the "it's going to snow a lot" bandwagon too early. But I'm glad to see it's dumping and I'm fully on board the snow bandwagon at this point.
The main storm moves toward Colorado on Tuesday afternoon and hits the state Tuesday night. Ahead of the storm, heavy snow will continue for Steamboat on Tuesday and will likely pick up for Wolf Creek and the southern San Juans as well on Tuesday afternoon. Areas in between (most of the state) should still see snow, though the winds will come from the west-southwest or southwest and this isn't as favorable for snow. With abundant moisture and storm energy, though there should still be snow in the air. There's also a chance of the heavy snow band near Steamboat sagging south toward I-70. It's impossible to know where this will wind up, but any location under this band could see hefty snow on Tuesday, much higher than forecast.
The main cold front will move across Colorado from Tuesday late evening through Wednesday morning. A perfect mix of factors will combine for very heavy snow (cold front, moisture, jet stream) and I would expect road closures on Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning as the front passes. It could snow 1-3 inches per hour as the front passes, and along with gusty winds visibility could go to near zero for a short time. That's usually all you need to close some roads, so if you're angling for a Wednesday powder day, either get to your location Tuesday evening or hope and pray that the roads stay open and traffic flows. This is more of a concern along I-70 and north, though areas further south could see issues as well. Also, if you're coming from Denver to the mountains, the metro area will see snow on Tuesday night as well, so if you wait until Wednesday morning to drive it could be a loooooooooong commute.
That said, Wednesday should be a powder day for almost all mountains in the state.(as I forecasted on Saturday, five days before:-). The heavy snow will wind down by late morning except around Telluride, Silverton, and Monarch where it could continue through mid afternoon. Go out and ski/ride on Wednesday...after a few days of snow and then big snow Tuesday night, conditions will be the best of the season. Don't you owe yourself a day out of work or school anyway?
After the excitement of Wednesday, we'll see dry, sunny weather on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and likely Sunday as well. Then it's probable that another storm hits most of Colorado with another good shot of snow sometime around Christmas Eve night (+/- 12 to 18 hours). Ain't life grand?
PS - my snow research in Utah continues. Here's a quick recap from yesterday at Solitude, where we lapped 18-25 inches of untouched snow in Honeycomb Canyon with NO lift lines. Solitude indeed!
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