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A Tale of Two Storms

Friday, June 5, 2020

While Steamboat Springs is currently seeing mostly sunny skies and our warmest day of the year so far, with a 4 pm temperature of 85 F this Friday afternoon, big changes are in store as two storms approach our area. The first will be warmer and produce a wet Saturday, while the second is much drier and very cold, and may produce snowflakes down to the Yampa Valley floor Monday evening.

The first storm, currently entering Arizona, is actually the southern eddy of the storm that brought a weak cool front through our area a few days ago on Wednesday. The storm has become quite wet as it loitered off the California coast, and will be moving over our area on Saturday. Some showers may break out tonight, most likely along the Continental Divide, but expect a cloudy start to Saturday with showers beginning by noon and possibly strong storms after noon, along with breezy to windy southwesterly to southerly flow. And, as insisted on by the American GFS for a week now, it looks like most of western Colorado will get a good soaking from this, with a third to a half inch of rain expected through the day.

With last night’s flow under the Fifth Street bridge at 3000 cfs, (availabe on the SnowAlarm home page under the ‘Compared to Average’ heading, and almost 4 feet of snow containing almost 2 feet of liquid water still present at the Tower Snotel near the top of Buffalo Pass, heavy rainfall may create some localized flooding concerns.

It does look like we see rapid drying behind the storm for Saturday night as the second storm approaches.

This second storm has spent the last week traversing the northern Pacific, and has become very cold as it mixed with the still-cold air from the North Pole. Currently in the Gulf of Alaska, it will keep the first storm moving to our east as we begin Sunday with mostly sunny skies and breezy southwesterly winds as the storm passes through the Pacific Northwest. Some energy is forecast to eject over the northwest corner of Colorado and bring the initial surge of cool air over our area by Sunday evening, with showers currently forecast to stay mostly to our northwest. The eventual track of this lobe of ejecting energy may bring the showers over our area or keep Sunday dry.

Though the parent storm is forecast to travel along the northern border of the U.S., cold air will continue pouring in to our area from Sunday night through Tuesday morning as the southern part of the storm rotates through, along with windy westerly flow on Monday turning to less windy northwesterly flow on Tuesday.

Below freezing temperatures are possible for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, so be sure to protect sensitive vegetation. And though this cold storm starts dry, there may be enough moisture for snowflakes down the to Yampa Valley floor over the Monday night period. Weather forecast models disagree on the available moisture, though, with the usually drier ECMWF, but not in this case, predicting a couple of inches of accumulating snowfall on Mt. Werner by Tuesday morning.

High temperatures will be ten to twenty degrees below our average of 70 F, with highs in the fifties for Monday and Tuesday, sixties for Wednesday and seventies returning for Thursday. After the possible snowflakes Monday night, mostly sunny skies are expected for most of the week starting on Tuesday.

There is a chance the storm may revisit us late in the work week as cold air invades the Great Plains and areas east, though at this point it looks to mostly affect areas to the east of the Continental Divide. But lots of weather to get through before that, and my next weather narrative scheduled for Sunday will fine-tune details associated with the cold air outbreak for the beginning of the upcoming work week.

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