Crashes keep Steamboat police busy |

Crashes keep Steamboat police busy

Mike Austin, of Loveland, chains up his truck along U.S. Highway 40 before ascending Rabbit Ears Pass on Friday morning.
Matt Stensland

— Steamboat residents woke up to a little more snow than forecast Friday.

About 6 inches of dry, fluffy Champagne Powder had to be wiped from cars Friday morning, and Steamboat Ski Area reported 8 inches for the 24-hour period.

Several more inches fell during the day, and the Nat­­­ional Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a winter storm warning for the area and expects 10 to 14 inches of snow to fall by this evening.

But it’s not a winter wonderland for everyone.

Routt County law enforcement officials and emergency responders were called to car w

recks almost nonstop Friday because of icy and slippery roads. The Steamboat Springs Police Dep­­­­artment had responded to 13 wrecks as of about 6 p.m.

“The roads were just slick and icy, and people just weren’t slowing down,” officer Bill Stucker said.

On the scene of one of the crashes Friday, Stucker said one of the more serious wrecks occurred at about 2 p.m. at Missouri Avenue and Grand Street, when a minivan and a pickup collided. Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue had to extract a 47-year-old man from the minivan. He was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center with leg and back pain.

“I hope it stops,” Stucker said about the snow.

‘Complicated system’

And stop it will, but only after more waves of precipitation pass through today.

Jim Daniels, a forecaster with the weather service, called the snow event this weekend a “complicated system” supported by the jet stream sitting over the Colorado/Wyoming border.

In that jet stream are several embedded waves and minor disturbances. The wave that came through early Friday was

stronger than expected, Daniels said.

Although temperatures rem­­ained seasonably mild in the high 20s and 30s, the snow has been mostly light and dry.

Daniels said that was because the snow had just the right conditions to form perfect “dendritic” snowflakes.

“This whole thing was really a combination of things: a favorable temperature and this embedded disturbance,” he said.

The snow will likely taper off this afternoon, when the focus of the system moves to southwestern Colorado, Daniels said. But before then, the weather service expects a foot or more to fall in the area, with favored areas from Steamboat north to Clark.

The Colorado Avalanche Inf­­or­­­mation Center forecasts 4 to 8 inches, and Colorado Powder Forecasts calls for 1 to 2 inches.

Skies are expected to clear on Monday.

“I think the folks up there are quite happy with what’s going on,” Daniels said.

Avalanche warning

The storm is accompanied by strong winds, leading the CAIC to raise the avalanche danger to “considerable.”

In Friday’s avalanche report, forecaster Scott Toepfer said wind and snow are adding stress to the snowpack.

“By Saturday evening the new snow and wind-loaded snow could begin to stress some of the persistent weak layers that are currently 2 to 3 feet deep,” Toepfer wrote in the report. “If the forecasted snow and wind verify, we could move into an avalanche warning by Saturday afternoon.”

The Flat Tops and Steamboat Zone avalanche forecast region had its first avalanche death of the year Sunday, when a 19-year-old snowmobiler from Meeker was caught in an avalanche in the Sand Peak area.

CAIC urged backcountry travelers to take caution in avalanche terrain, even with slopes that show no signs of instability or have been ridden numerous times already.

“Do not assume a slope is safe just because previous users rode down without issues,” the report said.

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