Avalanche danger lingers, with wet snow slides likely; 2 search and rescue team members involved in a Berthoud Pass slide earlier this month
SUMMIT COUNTY — Another sunny and warm day ahead for the high country, with temperatures expected to climb into the mid-40s and nighttime lows only dipping down into the upper 20s. Across northeastern Colorado, many locations will see temperatures anywhere from 10 to 12 degrees above normal. Thursday should be almost as mild, although clouds scudding in ahead of a Canadian storm may keep things from warming up quite as much.
The big weather news is the storm forecast to arrive late Thursday into Friday, with a potent cold front, plenty of moisture and atmospheric dynamics all expected to combine for a shot of significant snow, according to the National Weather Service. If the storm holds together, it could deliver 12 inches of snow to the mountains and foothills, according to the forecast discussion from the Boulder office, with the peak of the storm scheduled to arrive Friday afternoon.
The big question seems to be whether the brunt of the weather will slip east of the Continental Divide. Skies should start clearing again Saturday with a return to high pressure and milder weather for early in the week. The cold front Friday will drive temperatures back down to 10 degrees below normal, so be prepared for big changes in the next few days. Highs will return to seasonal norms for the weekend.
The spring warmup of the past few days has helped to start settling the snowpack, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, but the avalanche danger remains real, with deeply buried layers ready to give way. According to the CAIC forecast, steep layers near treeline continue to be the most suspect.
One potential risk is from water percolating down into the faceted crystals at the base of the snowpack, making for a slippery mix. The warm weather is likely to spur some loose, wet snow avalanche activity, especially near and below cliff bands. Given the sketchy snowpack, the CAiC forecasters warned that avalanches breaking loose in surface layers could easily step down deep into the snowpack to generate large and dangerous slides.
There have been reports of nine human-triggered slides in the Summit-Vail forecast zone in the past week, including one incident on Berthoud Pass involving two members of a search and rescue team who were looking for a lost hiker in the Floral Park area, a popular backcountry ski slope. Both were able to extricate themselves from the small avalanche. The area had previously been blasted with explosives. Read the details here.
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