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Quiet before active weather resumes around midweek

Sunday, February 24, 2019

After an unseasonably cold and moderately snowy week, the sun has returned to the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday morning. A ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska has allowed a Pacific Northwest storm to form near its base, and Pacific energy and copious moisture will be carried inland this work work and bring significant precipitation to the western corridor between the I-80 and I-90 interstate highways.

After a mostly sunny day today, our area will see some sun and clouds on a seasonably warm Monday and Tuesday, along with the slight chance of some light afternoon snow showers with minimal accumulations at best, as hard-to-time waves of energy and moisture pass just north of us.

The weather turns more active around midweek as additional upstream Pacific storms encounter the Gulf of Alaska ridge of high pressure and split. After strong weather forecast model disagreement on how this pattern will evolve over the last week, it appears the American GFS caught on to the current forecast about 12 hours faster than the experimental model expected to soon take its place, and 24 hour faster than the European ECMWF.

The consensus is now that a Pacific storm will undercut the Gulf of Alaska ridge of high pressure and quickly slingshot around the Pacific Northwest storm and head inland, bringing clouds and a good chance of light to moderate snow later Wednesday into Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, another stronger upstream Pacific storm looks to be shunted much further south underneath the Gulf of Alaska ridge before moving towards the West Coast late in the work week. This will dislodge the Pacific Northwest storm, bringing the possibly strong but quick-moving storm to our area by later Thursday into Friday.

Even at only a half-week away, the details are still uncertain, but right now I would guess snows get started by Wednesday afternoon or evening in generally westerly flow, leaving 3-6” of relatively dense snow by Thursday morning, Snows will diminish, but likely not stop during the day before the much stronger storm starts moderate to heavy snows by Thursday afternoon or evening, bringing 6-12” of fluffy low-density powder by Friday morning.

Winds will turn from the west during the beginning of the storm to the northwest by the end of the storm with another blast of unseasonably cold air, and I expect some Steamboat Magic Friday morning before snows eventually taper off by the end of the day. Another 2-5” of snow will fall during the day that would be reported on a cold Saturday morning report.

A short break is advertised for Saturday before the storm from under the Gulf of Alaska ridge is forecast to cross the West Coast early in the weekend and battle the cold air from the northern latitudes as it moves piecemeal across the Great Basin. Though I expect changes in the forecast, a stormy weather pattern may restart on Sunday and last into the beginning of the next work week.

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