First snow storm of 2020 could surpass expectations; up to 16 inches forecast for Steamboat by Thursday morning
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Nature is making its own New Year’s toast in Steamboat Springs, with more than a foot of fresh, Champagne Powder expected by Thursday morning.
The first storm of the decade should meet or exceed meteorologists’ initial predictions, meaning some deep powder days for skiers and riders but travel difficulties for drivers.
A winter storm warning for the area, issued Wednesday, remains in effect until midnight Thursday, particularly in the mountain passes. Wind gusts could exceed 40 mph, with blowing snow making travel “difficult or impossible,” according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. The warning urges drivers to slow down and use caution.
Earlier forecasts cast some uncertainty about the track of this latest storm, with different forecasting models showing a varying degree of intensity, according to previous Steamboat Pilot & Today reporting.
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Local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website snowalarm.com, said his latest models show that Steamboat could receive 8 to 16 inches by Thursday morning, 4 inches more than he originally anticipated.
Snowfall should be the most intense from Thursday afternoon to the evening, he said. Friday morning’s snow report could see 3 to 6 inches of additional snow, Weissbluth said, with light showers continuing until the afternoon.
Cooler temperatures should accompany the snow. Thursday’s forecasted high is 24 degrees with a low of 6 degrees in the evening, according to the Weather Service. Friday’s high is 25 degrees dipping to a low of 10 degrees in the evening.
Weissbluth said those temperatures are ideal for forming dendrites in snowflakes and should make for light, fluffy snow. An avid skier, he plans to take advantage of the powder with an excursion to Steamboat Resort. As of Wednesday, 97% of the resort’s terrain was open.
The oncoming round of snow comes after heavy accumulation on Wednesday, with snow falling at rates of more than an inch per hour, according to Weissbluth. As of 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Steamboat Resort had received 4 inches of new snow at midmountain, according to its snow report.
In addition to the travel difficulties at higher elevations, Weissbluth urged people to be cautious driving through Steamboat. The heavy snowfall could leave loose snow on the roads before plow drivers can clear it, he said.
Travelers should keep an extra flashlight, food and water in their vehicles in case of an emergency, according to the Weather Service.
For updates on road conditions, call 511 or visit the Colorado Department of Transportation’s website at cotrip.org.
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