From summer to winter: Red flag warnings will turn to snow Tuesday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The rapid summer to winter change forecast from Monday to Tuesday is remarkable, said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs SnowAlarm.com.
While Labor Day plans are safe with temperatures in the low to mid-80s and sunny skies — though breezy — a cold front will move in Monday night.
“Currently, a Pacific storm that has traveled over the top of a ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska is mixing with some cold air, originally sourced from the North Pole, and will bring a strong cold front through the northern Rocky Mountain states on Labor Day,” Weissbluth explained.
“We will go from a summer day to waking up to snowflakes on Tuesday,” he said, with the high temperature plummeting about 40 degrees. “It’s going to be quite the change.”
With the current dry conditions, warm weather and high winds, fire warnings and restrictions will remain in effect Monday.
“Hazards will be record heat, fire weather, strong wind, snow and record cold,” according to the National Weather Center’s latest “Situation Report.”
On Tuesday, the forecast is for rain and snow before 7 a.m., then snow between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., with a high temperature near 45 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts on Tuesday could be up to 45 mph. On Wednesday, the high will be near 58 degrees.
The worst of the weather will likely arrive late on Monday night and last through Tuesday — ideally after most Monday travelers have reached their destinations. But all day Tuesday will likely be messy on the roads, especially over the mountain passes, Weissbluth warned. There will be snow and blowing snow and slushy conditions, even if there isn’t much snowpack.
While there will be a light freeze early Tuesday morning with a low forecast in the mid-20s, it will be overnight Tuesday and early Wednesday morning that will be really frigid. Weissbluth said the low forecast overnight Tuesday — single digits to teens — seems a bit extreme, but it will almost certainly be a hard freeze, and people are advised to protect vegetation.
Whether or not any snow will accumulate in town is an unknown, Weissbluth said. The ground surface is still warm — it won’t likely accumulate on the streets but might on the grass and vegetation. He predicts about 6 inches of snow on top of the mountain.
And make sure to shake any of that heavy wet snow off the trees, so their limbs don’t break, Weissbluth advised.
In terms of fall colors, Weissbluth said the Aspen groves are in fairly good shape from decent spring moisture, despite a dry summer.
And with the leaves still well attached, as long as the wind doesn’t blow them off, colors should still be on pace for a peak showing around the third week of September, he said.
The high temperature in Denver is forecast to plummet 56 degrees from Monday to Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service, and Weissbluth said the storm’s impacts will be more severe with possible power outages and more snow.
“Compared to the Front Range, we are getting off lightly,” he said. That especially goes for road conditions.
There may be people camping who are unprepared for the sudden shift in temperature, Weissbluth said, and he hopes they have an eye on the forecast.
“This eddy, or so-called Four Corners low, is forecast to slowly move northeastward through Thursday, keeping cool and unsettled weather over our area for another couple of days,” Weissbluth said. “While precipitation is expected to mostly subside by Wednesday, we may see another round of precipitation wrap around the northern side of the storm for Thursday.”
In terms of the season’s first snow, “it generally is a little bit early,” Weissbluth said. Though it isn’t unusual to see some snow on the mountain in mid-September, it is definitely early to see snow in town, he said.
And it has been unusually warm in recent days and weeks, Weissbluth noted. On Saturday, the temperature hit 90 degrees — 15 degrees above average.
Keep up with the conditions:
• Find the latest forecast and recent weather stories here.
• View Steamboat webcams here.
• Find information from the National Weather Service, including storm warnings and advisories at wrh.noaa.gov
• The Colorado Department of Transportation provides road conditions, closures and traffic cameras at cotrip.org.
• For travel information by phone, call 511 (in Colorado) or dial 303-639-1111.
• Find information about avalanche danger and conditions from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
• For flight information, visit flightview.com/traveltools.
And for those who aren’t thrilled to see the snow, don’t fret, Weissbluth said. Summer weather will be back in no time. By Thursday, temperatures will be close to 70 and near 80 by Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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Katie Lee graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Wyoming in communications last spring, but as summer started, she hadn’t yet found a job.