'It is going to be very, very cold'

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Good news is on the way for those ready for a change in the weather after weeks of snow. But they will have to wait.

A cold front is expected today and Thursday, but higher temperatures are forecast this weekend.

Clearing skies and temperatures well below zero will move into the area tonight and remain until early Thursday morning, said Brian Avery, a hydrologist with the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service.

"You all are going to be hit with the coldest air mass of the season, actually, the coldest air mass in a very long time," he said. "It is going to be very, very cold."

Avery said Steamboat Springs residents can ex----pect temperatures to dip between 20 and 30 degrees below zero between 4 and 6 a.m. Thursday. Avery said he did not expect temperatures to be higher than 4 degrees today and that the temperature will drop drastically after 3 or 4 p.m.

"Temperatures will reach below zero probably before sunset," he said.

Avery said Steamboat will be much colder than any other part of the county because of the tremendous amounts of snow the area has received, which makes the area more susceptible to the frigid temperatures.

The cold front responsible for the drop in temperature began moving into the area Tuesday night. This storm is affecting much of the United States, including Colorado's mountains and Eastern plains, Avery said.

"It's a trough of low pressure and cold air that has been moving south from Canada and now hitting us from Wyoming," he said.

When temperatures drop so low, Avery said the main concern for most people is staying warm enough to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

"The key thing is to not have any of your skin exposed. Dress in layers and wear mittens, because they keep heat in better," he said.

The coldest areas will be those at higher elevations, such as Rabbit Ears Pass and the ski area, Avery said.

However, he said the below-freezing temperatures would ease Thursday afternoon and Friday, when temperatures are expected to climb back into the 20s and low 30s.

Despite the cold, Avery said the high pressure front most likely will not bring any more snow. There have been only two days since Thanksgiving that the area has not received snow.

"All this snow has been a good thing for the northern mountains, especially considering how bad the snowpack was this time last year," he said.

Avery said Steamboat is 146 percent above typical precipitation levels this time of year. At this time last year, the area has received only 93 percent of typical precipitation.

"Your area by far has the best snow in the state," he said. "You're all leading the pack up there."

Colorado Department of Transportation officials told Avery they estimated about six feet of snow had fallen at the summit of Rabbit Ears Pass since the snowstorms began a little more than two weeks ago. Avery said he estimated that six to 10 inches of snow fell from late Monday night to Tuesday morning.

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