Overnight storm a sign of things to come as weather pattern gets more active
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A storm rolling in late Sunday could bring the Yampa Valley between 3 to 6 inches of snow, but next weekend could prove more productive as the weather pattern becomes more active.
Many of the storms in the past few months have been weakened by a high-pressure ridge over the West Coast for most of January, said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website snowalarm.com.
This ridge is what has led to much of the above average temperatures and dry weather the area has seen in recent weeks.
“The storms interact with that ridge, and the storms unfortunately weaken. They kind of sacrifice themselves, but the ridge becomes weaker, and it is actually going to move out more in to the eastern Pacific,” Weissbluth said.
The small storm on Saturday and the one expected overnight are the beginning of a change in weather patterns that Weissbluth said would bring more frequent and stronger snow storms.
“That energy is sort of up there over the Pacific most of the winter, and it just depends on whether or not it migrates far enough south to influence us,” Weissbluth said. “This pattern change is now allowing it to move over our area.”
There are three storms coming this way in the next 10 days when Weissbluth looks at his long-term models. While putting a number on anything still a week away is difficult, Weissbluth said there are scenarios that bring over a foot of snow next weekend. Other scenarios have storms missing the area or hitting it even harder.
“It can go either way at this point unfortunately,” Weissbluth said. “Hopefully, we can get two or three of them by the end of the month.”
Snow should start falling Sunday evening into Monday morning, and Tom Renwick, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said higher elevations should see 4 to 8 inches while downtown Steamboat should be closer to 2 inches.
“It is a pretty quick moving system so we are kind of expecting the snow to be done by (Monday) morning,” Renwick said.
The middle of the week should see a mix of clouds and sun, with temperatures right around average, Weissbluth said.
The system that generated the overnight snow will retrograde, Renwick said, meaning that it will travel east to west eventually dropping off the Baja coast. There, it will pick up moisture and “juice up the atmosphere” before a strong cold front moves in Friday.
Renwick said it will start snowing early Friday and likely will not stop until about noon on Sunday. Ahead of the storm, the area could see some warmer temperatures moving up from the south, potentially reaching highs of 38 degrees Friday. But he said that will likely be early in the morning Friday before the storm moves in.
“We’re looking for snow to begin Friday morning for pretty much all along the divide,” Renwick said. “Basically, it is looking like next weekend is going to be wet and snowy.”
Both the middle- and long-range models are “showing the solution,” Renwick said, meaning they are starting to agree on what the storm looks like. Still, he was hesitant to give a projected snow total this far ahead of the storm because models can completely change.
“I’ve done it before, and I was completely wrong,” Renwick said, before giving the total the models were projecting. “Right around a foot through the whole weekend.”
He said some models are showing some potential for banding, where the storm sets up over a particular area bringing a lot of snow at a quick pace.
“If happens overhead for you guys, that just dumps like mad,” Renwick said. “But, again, we here at the weather service, when we are looking that far out, we kind of call that fantasy land.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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