Steamboat could get 2 feet of snow

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A powerful winter storm is expected to continue dumping snow across the region today and Monday, with in-town snow accumulations forecast in the 1- to 2-foot range.

A winter storm warning for Steamboat Springs remains in effect until 6 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Travel conditions are expected to be treacherous, with some mountain roads becoming nearly impassable because of heavy snow and gusty winds.

The mountains surrounding Steamboat are expected to pick up even more snow. Steamboat Ski Area and Rabbit Ears Pass could see between 2 feet and 4 feet of accumulation by Monday evening. In addition, winds gusting up to 50 mph will cause significant drifting and blowing.

The system moved into the area Saturday afternoon. Balmy morning temperatures and periods of rain eventually were replaced with heavy snow and strong winds. Steamboat Ski Area officials were forced to close the gondola and Morningside lifts for a period of time Saturday because of gusty winds between 35 and 50 mph, spokesman Mike Lane said.

The precipitation falling across Colorado is from the same system that has devastated sections of California and Nevada. Parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains recorded 5 feet of snow by Saturday afternoon, with as much as 5 feet more forecast by the time the storm exits the region. Gusty winds overturned semi-trailers, forced the cancellation of many flights, and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes.

The strong Pacific storm follows on the heels of a similar storm last weekend that created blizzard conditions in Steamboat and much of the Colorado Rockies. Many flights at Yampa Valley Regional Airport were canceled Dec. 30, and mountain highways such as U.S. Highway 40 and Interstate 70 were closed intermittently. More than 2,000 travelers were stranded in Silverthorne and unable to drive to the Front Range because of the dangerous conditions.

U.S. 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass remained open Saturday evening, although a number of minor accidents caused by the hazardous driving conditions were being called into dispatch. For updated road closure information from the Colorado Department of Transportation, visit www.cotrip.org or call (303) 639-1111.

National Weather Service meteorologists said a lull in the snowfall today will be replaced with heavy snowfall tonight and possibly into Monday. After a brief break from precipitation Tuesday, a series of weaker systems favoring the Steamboat area could affect the region Wednesday through Friday.

Visit www.steamboatpilot.com for updated weather information.

- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4221

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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