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Big snows on Thursday and Friday

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Steamboat Springs area saw a cold start to this Wednesday morning, with a low temperature of -9 F at 7:35 am at the Bob Adams airport and -14 F at 1:50 am at the top of Mt. Werner. A Pacific jet stream will bring warming temperatures, wind and copious snow on Thursday and Friday before we see a short break on Saturday. A couple more storms bring chances for much less intense snow almost each day for the upcoming week, with midday Monday through midday Tuesday currently looking the driest.

I have to say it is tough to contain my excitement over the forecast snow amounts for Thursday and Friday. What meteorologists refer to as an atmospheric river, or well-defined stream of moisture, will round the top of a ridge of high pressure in the eastern Pacific and bring periods of moderate to heavy snowfall for the better part of two days, along with difficult to even impossible travel. Being of northern Pacific origin, temperatures are forecast to rise through today and tomorrow as the current arctic air mass is displaced, reaching around 15 F by sunset on Thursday as snowfall rates increase and approach an inch per hour.

Snowfall should start this evening, with modest accumulations of 2-5” by the Thursday morning mid-mountain report. Another 5-10” of snow is expected to fall during the day and evening along with increasing northwesterly winds before we may see a lull around midnight ahead of a wave embedded within the favorable and moist northwest flow.

Snowfall rates will increase soon after midnight and reach rates almost double that observed on Thursday. It should be snowing hard at report time, and with the 5-10” from the previous day, I would expect 8-16” of snow by the Friday morning report, based upon the latest weather forecast data which has decreased snow totals from earlier runs a bit.

So we should see some Steamboat Magic on Friday, where there are significant accumulations between report time and ski time. Northwest winds should increase in the morning and become gustier before snowfall is expected to taper off during the late morning as the embedded wave passes. But showers, some producing briefly moderate to heavy snowfall rates, should continue in the afternoon with the storm mostly over by the evening. Most of the 4-8” of snow reported Saturday morning should have fallen during the day Friday, though showers are expected to persist overnight.

Meanwhile, another storm develops in the Gulf of Alaska on Saturday and drops southward along the West Coast and splits on Sunday. We should see a break during the day Saturday before the northern part of the split brings a cold front through our area around Saturday night, with 2-5” of snow possible by the Sunday morning report. Though it is uncertain, we may also see some energy eject out of the southern part of the split storm and move over the front, which should restart light showers after a short break Sunday morning that last into Monday morning.

The last half of Monday into the first half of Tuesday look like the driest period of this upcoming week before another strong storm rounds the ridge of high pressure in the eastern Pacific and forces the southern part of the earlier split storm near our area by Tuesday night. Unsettled weather is forecast for Wednesday as this storm passes mostly to our south, with more cold air and snow possible after midweek depending upon the eventual track of the next storm.

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