December snow in city of Steamboat Springs surpasses historic average for month
December 18, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Two weeks remain in December and already the snowfall in the city of Steamboat Springs inched past the monthly average of 38.5 inches.
Weather observer Art Judson confirmed that December 2012 snowfall at his measuring station between downtown and the mountain unofficially stood at 38.8 inches at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday with heavy snow continuing to fall.
The all-time average December snowfall at midmountain at Steamboat Ski Area is 67.31 inches. The midmountain total was 50 inches and growing by 1 p.m., with the ski area reporting 10 inches of snow at midmountain and 16 inches at the summit in the preceding 24 hours.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction called for a 100 percent chance of snow Tuesday night with 3 to 7 inches overnight in town before the chance of snow decreases to 80 percent Wednesday.
The storm played a role in frustrating some visitors to Steamboat, eager to sample the powder. The American Airlines flight to Steamboat from Dallas to Yampa Valley Regional Airport was canceled because of weather in Hayden. And the first United Express flight of the morning from YVRA to Denver was canceled because the plane, which spends the night on the ramp, did not fly from Denver to the Yampa Valley on Monday night.
Inbound flights were booked at a 66 percent load factor Tuesday with 300 passengers expected to arrive.
The fresh snow also was making car travel difficult throughout the day Tuesday. The Colorado Department of Transportation was reporting as of 4:15 p.m. that motorists on U.S. Highway 40 would encounter poor visibility, blowing snow and an icy and snowpacked surface from Dinosaur near the Utah border through Steamboat and over Rabbit Ears Pass.
And it was all hands on deck for state snowplow drivers in this part of the state. CDOT issued a traffic advisory at midday saying all of the maintenance crew members in the northwest region were working 12-hour snow shifts, either from midnight to noon or noon to midnight, resulting in 24-hour snowplowing operations.
The combination of heavy snow and wind caused the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to use stronger terms to state the danger of snow slides in the backcountry of the Park Range and Flat Tops by Tuesday afternoon.
Early Tuesday, Scott Toepfer, of the Avalanche Information Center, rated the danger as high on north to east aspects above tree line and considerable on other aspects and elevations. By midday, he upgraded the danger to high at all elevations from northwest to southeast aspects.
That means avalanches, both natural and human-triggered, are likely on steep slopes, Toepfer wrote on the website.
"A potent storm will cross Colorado after sunset (Tuesday). This storm will bring periods of intense snowfall and initially strong west to southwest winds," Toepfer wrote on the website. "Snowfall rates of 2 inches per hour are possible in areas favored by southwesterly wind flow, and this high precipitation rate will stress the old snow and a natural avalanche cycle will result."
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com