Wet snow expected to pose driving risks, avalanche danger over the weekend
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A moist, Pacific storm is expected to bring as much as 6 inches of wet snow and poor road conditions to the Steamboat Springs area during the weekend.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory in effect until noon Saturday. The advisory warns drivers to expect slippery, snow-covered roads along with limited visibility.
Higher elevations will receive the brunt of the storm.
The weather service also issued a winter storm warning for the mountain passes around Steamboat, particularly Rabbit Ears Pass, until Sunday morning. Wind gusts could reach 40 mph, with snow accumulations of 12 to 24 inches. Drivers should expect low visibility from blowing snow.
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• 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.
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“Severe winter weather will make travel very hazardous or impossible,” according to the warning.
The weather service predicts snow showers to continue until early Sunday, after which time people may see some sunshine. Temperatures should stay relatively mild Saturday, with a high of 33 degrees, before dipping to a low of 16 degrees in the evening.
Dan Cuevas, a National Weather Service hydrometeorological technician in Grand Junction, said this time of year tends to mark an uptick in temperatures, which affects the type of storms that hit the area.
“March can be a good month for wet snow — that’s what this is,” he said, referring to Saturday’s storm.
Cuevas explained as airflows warm in the weeks leading to springtime, clouds are able to hold more moisture. That results in muggier snowfall that sometimes turns to rain.
He expects lower elevations in the Yampa Valley to receive 2 to 4 inches of snow that will likely melt to slush on the roads.
This weekend’s storm could also pose risks to backcountry travelers.
A mixture of dense snow and high winds in the mountains pose considerable avalanche dangers below, near and above the tree line, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
“As the snow piles up over the weekend, more slopes will become dangerous,” the center warns.
Slopes that face north, east and southeast pose the greatest risk of avalanche.
“Thick slabs of drifted snow are forming on these slopes and are the most likely places you can trigger a deadly avalanche,” according to the center.
Cuevas predicts the weather should stay mild early next week before another wet storm is expected to hit by the middle of the week. The weather service forecasts a chance of rain and snow showers on Wednesday, with a high of 41 degrees.
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