Forecasters predict storm will bring lots of snow, moisture to Steamboat area this weekend
Blue sky dominated the horizon Thursday afternoon, March 9, but weather forecasters are predicting a return of wet, snowy conditions over the next several days that could result in several feet of snow at higher elevations.
“In downtown Steamboat Springs we’re looking at four to six inches, and then higher up it goes up quite dramatically,” said Brianna Bealo, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “We’re looking at anywhere around 20 inches, and then at the very highest points along the Park Range predictions are upwards of 26 to 30 inches.”
Local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com, agrees that this weekend’s storm systems will bring large amounts of snow to higher elevation areas, and he expects the storm system will start with a mix of rain and snow Friday afternoon, March 10.
He added that he thinks the storm will bring 7-17 inches at mid-mountain from Friday morning through Saturday afternoon, March 11, and maybe 10-20 up top.
“I see a warm event starting out Friday, with a cold front coming through overnight,” Weissbluth said. “It’ll be wet, wet down here with a rain-snow mix, or even all rain for a time … That comes through overnight Friday, and town will likely be waking up to snow early Saturday morning.”
He added that coming up with exact amounts of snow with storms like this is difficult. He expects to see rain in downtown with limited accumulation but agrees with the National Weather Service that much more snow should be expected on the higher peaks in the Park Range.
Meteorologists said the storm is part of an atmospheric river — an area of deep tropical moisture that collects in one relatively narrow stream — that will bring moisture from the warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean, just north of Hawaii, into Colorado this weekend.
“If you’re lucky, and the conditions align just right, they can hook up with a Pacific system and it can tap into that moisture and drag it on shore,” Bealo said. “What you end up with is this really concentrated stream of above-normal moisture moving onto the West Coast.”
In this case, as with some of the other storms Steamboat has seen previously this winter, the path will allow most of the moisture to get through the mountains in California before bringing a generous amount moisture to the mountain slopes around Steamboat Springs.
“This is going to be a great storm for our snow pack,” Weissbluth said. “We will probably get two to three inches of liquid water out of this, which is a tremendous amount.”
The storm is expected to move through the area this weekend before ending Monday, March 13.
“It is really supposed to start midday (Friday), and it’s just going to kind of come in waves with periods of more intense snowfall, and then periods of slightly less intense snowfall,” Bealo said. “But for you guys up in Steamboat Springs it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop snowing until late Monday. The bulk of the strong, and the most intense part of it is going to be Saturday.”
Yampa Valley residents might be surprised by how warm temperatures are in the valley, hovering around the low- to mid-30s on Friday. Start heading uphill, and the temperatures will drop below freezing quickly, though, according to Bealo. As the system passes through the area, temperatures will dip from lows in the mid-20s on Friday and Saturday down to lows in the teens Sunday, March 12, and Monday.
Weissbluth said that after the weekend system concludes, residents in Steamboat will have some light snow at the end of the weekend into early next week.
“We will possibly have another large and impactful snowstorm by midweek,” Weissbluth said. “These are the warm, wet storms and this is what we had back in December and now we’re being revisited by these (atmospheric) rivers again.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.