‘A swift river of moist Pacific air …’
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — National Weather Service forecasters generally don’t wax poetic in their forecasts, but the latest update from the Denver-Boulder office includes phrases that will ring musically in the ears of snow-starved Colorado skiers and water managers.
In short, it’s going to be cold, snowy and windy — conditions we haven’t seen in the high country for about nine months, since sometime last February. Ahead of the storm, forecasters have issued a high wind warning for Summit County and the northern Front Range for 11 p.m. Friday through 5 p.m. Saturday evening. Winds of 50 to 60 mph are expected, with near-hurricane force gusts up to 80 mph possible after midnight.
According to the forecast, “A swift river of moist Pacific air” will move across northern Colorado starting Saturday evening, bringing the potential for the first significant snowfall of the season, with the potential for up to a foot of snow on the favored northwest-facing mountain slopes by Sunday morning.
The projected snowfall could start to put a dent in the state’s serious moisture deficit. As of early December, the statewide snowpack was at just 39 percent of normal, spelling potential trouble for next summer.
The snow also comes just in time for the state’s ski resorts as they ramp up for the make-or-break Christmas holiday. The new snow, along with cold temperatures to facilitate additional snowmaking, should help many areas open additional terrain.
Even the cautious forecasters at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center are optimistic about the storm, calling for anywhere between 4 to 10 inches of snow across many of the state’s northern and central mountain zones.
Snow should start falling in the Steamboat area by early afternoon as a cold front pushes into the state. The precipitation will spread southeast through the evening, with the heaviest snowfall overnight. Another quick shot of snow races across the area Monday night, followed by a gradual warming and drying trend.
High temps Saturday and Sunday will be in the teens and 20s, with overnight lows the next few nights dropping to well below zero — the coldest readings of the season.