Steamboat can look forward to milder temperatures, wet snow for weekend
Steamboat Springs — Residents of the upper Yampa Valley who awoke to double-digit, sub-zero temperatures Thursday are in for a surprise Dec. 8 and 9 as the moist Pacific jet stream storms onto the West Coast and shoves a cold front from the Bering Sea out of the way.
The big shift is expected to bring mild temperatures and the possibility of wet snow and even a mix of rain and snow late Friday, continuing through the night into the weekend.
“This is really a classic battle between Pacific air and arctic air,” Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth of the snow forecasting service SnowAlarm.com, said.
Thermometers close to the Yampa River in Steamboat Springs were reading 14 degrees below zero before dawn on Thursday, and the temperature was still frigid at mid-afternoon with readings of 12 to 15 degrees. However several weather forecasters were predicting high temperatures above freezing on Friday and Saturday.
Weissbluth explained that a very cold mass of air from Siberia had been shunted over the North Pole by a persistent ridge over the Bering Sea, bringing the frigid air Steamboat has experienced this week.
Initially, he expected temperatures aloft to warm overnight as the Pacific front exerted it influence. The warming trend should reach lower elevations on Dec. 9. He was expecting 2 to 4 inches of new snow Thursday night, with another 1 to 3 inches during the day on Friday.
“This is a difficult short-term forecast since there will be a lot of moisture around, but Steamboat Springs usually does not do so well when there is warming aloft,” Weissbluth said. “In fact, we had our notorious freezing rain event (in 2014) that also involved warming aloft, and I can’t discount the possibility that there may be some of that again.
“However, it is relatively rare, so I won’t include it in the forecast, but I do expect that snow amounts will be tempered from through Saturday morning while this is occurring,” Weissbluth explained.
Weissbluth anticipates snowfall at Steamboat Ski Area and possibly a rain-snow mix in the valley will taper off during the day on Friday before regrouping Saturday afternoon as a cool wave approaches and moves over northern Colorado Saturday night. That could be when Steamboat receives the most snow, and driving conditions begin to deteriorate.
“Snowfall will become moderate to heavy by midnight (Dec. 10) and continue through the morning hours before substantially decreasing by later in the day and overnight,” he said. “I would expect 6 to 12 inches by the Sunday morning ski report with another 3 to 6 inches during the day, likely making travel conditions quite difficult or even impossible for a time.”
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