Heavy snow expected to pound Northwest Colorado | SteamboatToday.com

Heavy snow expected to pound Northwest Colorado

A tree stands out against a grey background Wednesday afternoon west of Steamboat Springs. Weather forecasts in the area called for strong winds and snow in the mountains starting Wednesday evening. The storm is expected to drop 8 to 16 inches of snow in mountain areas above 10,000 feet and 2 to 6 inches in downtown Steamboat by Friday morning.

— A storm system that was forecast to arrive in Northwest Colorado on Wednesday night from the Oregon coast has the potential to dump 8 to 16 inches of snow on Mount Werner and the surrounding mountains before it starts to clear Friday morning, the National Weather Service in Grand Junction forecast Wednesday.

The forecast office issued a winter storm warning for Mount Werner, Rabbit Ears Pass and the surrounding mountains Wednesday afternoon that continues through 9 a.m. Friday.

Ellen Heffernan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Northwest Colorado would see periods of snow through Friday morning while an energetic and moist flow from the Pacific Northwest covers Steamboat Springs. Forecasters predicted Wednesday afternoon that the Yampa Valley and downtown Steamboat would receive 2 to 6 inches of snow by Friday.

"The heaviest chance for snow in the mountains looks like it's going to be" Thursday night, Heffernan said, adding that the Park Range should see the brunt of the storm system over Colorado. "There is still some uncertainty as to how widespread the (snowfall) is going to be."

The Park Range extends from the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area south to Mount Werner and Rabbit Ears Pass.

The Weather Service issued a wind advisory that called for sustained winds of 40 to 60 mph with gusts up to 80 mph above 10,000 feet Wednesday night. The wind was forecast to diminish Thursday.

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Wind closed the Sunshine Express chairlift at Steamboat Ski Area at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to the resort, and Heffernan said a wind monitoring station at the Storm Peak Observatory recorded sustained winds of 25 mph and gusts of up to 44 mph Tuesday night through Wednesday morning.

Heffernan said another storm system forecast to arrive Saturday afternoon could bring an additional 4 to 6 inches of snow to Northwest Colorado through Sunday night.

"We have this flow that's setting up, and it looks like we're going to have periods of snow through this coming week," she said. "We've had such dry conditions here lately, but we're now starting to see a pattern change and more winter."

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Avalanche danger

Monday’s snowstorm increased the avalanche danger across Colorado, including in the mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. In the forecast posted Wednesday, the CAIC reported danger in the Steamboat zone, which includes the Flat Tops Wilderness Area, is “considerable on north, northeast, east and southeast aspects near and above tree line. The danger is moderate on south, southwest, west and northwest aspects near and above tree line as well as aspects below tree line.”

With snowstorms back in the forecast, the CAIC forecasters reported avalanche danger in the Steamboat zone is expected to increase Thursday and Friday and “the Steamboat zone could go into an avalanche cycle by this weekend.” For more information about avalanche danger, and to view a forecast map, click here.

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