Up to 30 inches of snow predicted for Steamboat mountains by Friday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A major storm is expected to sweep through Steamboat Springs, with snow accumulations as high as 30 inches predicted to fall in the surrounding mountains by Friday, March 20.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a hazardous weather outlook ahead of the storm, warning that the inclement weather could pose dangerous travel conditions.
A small amount of snow is expected Wednesday night, with little to no accumulation by the morning, according to local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website snowlarm.com. Snowfall is expected to ramp up Thursday and continue throughout the day.
By noon Thursday, Weissbluth predicts rates of about 1 inch of snow per hour. Later in the afternoon, that could increase to as much as 3 inches of snow per hour. Driving is going to be very difficult or impossible at times if those accumulations occur, Weissbluth said.
By the end of the day Thursday, he predicts 8 to 16 inches of snow at the summit of Steamboat Resort, with 3 to 6 inches in the city of Steamboat. Another 4 to 8 inches of snow is expected to fall Thursday night.
The storm should be calmer on Friday, but snow showers should continue throughout the day. By Friday night, Weissbluth predicts another 3 to 6 inches in the mountains.
A cold front should accompany the storm, Weissbluth added, making for powdery snow in the evenings and early mornings. Thursday’s expected high is 39 degrees with a low of 19 degrees in the evening, according to the Weather Service. Friday should see similar temperatures with a high of 39 degrees and a low of 18 degrees.
However, the snow showers that occur during the warmer temperatures could make the roads slushy and increase the risk of avalanche danger.
Experts predict heightened avalanche danger starting Thursday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Avalanche danger goes from low to considerable at and above treeline, with slopes steeper than 35 degrees posing more risk.
“Steep slopes at lower elevations, that we may not often consider as avalanche terrain, could be the most problematic,” according to the center’s latest forecast.
The most likely avalanches to occur in these conditions are loose, wet avalanches. These happen when water runs through the snowpack and causes slides. In addition to avoiding steep slopes, experts urge people to stay away from terrain traps such as cliffs, gullies or tree wells.
“Exit avalanche terrain when you see pinwheels, roller balls, a slushy surface or during rain-on-snow events,” the Avalanche Information Center advises in its latest forecast.
• 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.
Last March proved to be one of the most dangerous months on record for avalanches in Colorado. During a two-week period of heavy moisture, experts recorded 87 major avalanches in the state, according to a report from Colorado Public Radio.
Those who are skinning and hiking up the ski area while it is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak should keep in mind that Steamboat Ski Patrol will not be available to respond to emergencies. Routt County Search and Rescue volunteers will answer calls for service, but response times could be longer than usual.
Saturday should see a break in the storm, Weissbluth said, with scattered showers throughout the day. Inclement weather could continue through Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
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Editor’s note: The story was updated at 8:33 p.m.