Thursday, March 11, 2021
The partly cloudy skies over the Steamboat Springs area have turned cloudy with light snow showers observed around the Yampa Valley this Thursday noon. Snow showers will continue today and tonight before decreasing for Friday. But they pick up again on Saturday with the possibility of persistent and moderate to heavy snowfall by Saturday night and Sunday, though uncertainty is high. A short break is advertised for part of Monday before a colder storm may move through later in the day or Tuesday.
A large and powerful storm currently located in the southwest corner of the U.S. is forecast to slowly move across the Desert Southwest on Friday and eventually Colorado on Saturday and Sunday. The storm is large enough to draw moisture from the Gulf of Mexico northward over the next three days and provide the fuel for heavy to excessive snowfall over the Front Range by Saturday afternoon and overnight.
Ahead of the storm, though, we will continue to see periods of snow showers and sun during the day today, with the snow showers lingering into the night. Only 1-4” is expected for the Friday morning report.
As the storm crosses the Desert Southwest and southern Great Basin on Friday, some dry air looks to move over our area for a less showery day than today. Weather forecast models still disagree on how quickly the storm approaches our area, so we may see snow showers redevelop by Friday night, though accumulations by Saturday morning look quite light.
The storm is forecast to be near the Four Corners region around Saturday morning, and this is the time when the ingredients come together for heavy snowfall rates to inundate the Front Range and foothills. Travel will become difficult to impossible down there by Saturday afternoon and overnight, especially in the foothills.
For those lucky enough to live or already be in the mountains on Saturday, snow showers are forecast to increase during the day Saturday with winds from the east developing. While the Steamboat area usually sees dry and windy weather when easterly winds downslope off the Park Range to our east, strong storms can sometimes produce moderate to heavy snows over our area as moisture-rich air moves first over Continental Divide and then over the cold air near the surface that is associated with the storm.
The current forecast has this situation developing, with the snow showers later Saturday becoming moderate to heavy and more persistent by Saturday night and Sunday. There is a high boom or bust potential with this storm for our area, with a reasonable forecast of 4-8” by Sunday morning and an additional 3-6” during the day and overnight Sunday.
There will be a short break in the action on Monday before another colder storm that is currently over the Gulf of Alaska crosses the Pacific Northwest coast and moves by either later Monday, as forecast by the European ECMWF or Tuesday as forecast by the American GFS. The uncertainty is related to how much the storm splits and how much cold air from the Yukon mixes into the storm.
We have a lot of weather to get through before a more certain forecast emerges for the early work week storm, so look for more details in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon. This one may be several hours late depending on how the weekend storm storm affects our area on Sunday.