Yampa Valley can expect rain before the snow returns Thursday | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley can expect rain before the snow returns Thursday

— Rain is in the forecast for the valley floor overnight Wednesday into Thursday, but it should be a different story at high elevation, with wintry weather set to return late Friday afternoon. First, a cold front hustles into the Park Range east of Steamboat Springs on Thursday followed by a vigorous storm front on the last day of the work week.

Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, of http://www.snowalarm.com, said that after a warm day Wednesday, showers should begin by evening and snow levels are likely to be at high elevation until a cold front passes through the area Thursday afternoon.

"All told, I would expect very significant accumulations for this storm cycle lasting Wednesday night through Monday, and excellent mid-winter-like skiing, especially after the second front passes late Friday," Weissbluth said.

But before winter returns, the National Weather Service in Grand Junction is predicting a high of 51 degrees Wednesday with a 30 percent chance of rain. The chance of rain increases to 70 percent until about 4 a.m. Thursday morning.

The mountains surrounding the Yampa Valley need that kind of weather pattern if there is to be a late push to build snowpack to feed streams and rivers this summer.

The combined Yampa and White river basins still are stuck at 73 percent of average in terms of the water stored in the mountain snow. However, there has been modest improvement in the past two weeks near the 10,500-foot summit of Buffalo Pass, where an additional 2.4 inches of water has accumulated since March 6. That brings the percent of average there up from 71 percent on March 6 to 73 percent Tuesday. The snow depth at the Tower measuring site on the pass now is 97 inches deep.

The National Weather Service expects overnight lows to continue to dip into the teens Thursday night through Monday night, and Weissbluth predicts the stormy pattern will continue "at least into the first week in April."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com