DENVER, COLORADO – A major winter storm warning has been issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) for a significant portion of Colorado’s western mountains, affecting areas from the Elkhead and Park Mountains to the West Elk and Sawatch Mountains, including the Flat Tops and central mountain valleys. The warning, effective from 11 AM today until 5 AM MST Sunday, forecasts heavy snowfall with accumulations expected to range between 10 to 20 inches, and even higher on favored slopes.
Travel across the affected regions could become exceedingly difficult, with patchy blowing snow poised to drastically reduce visibility, particularly on ridge tops. For those who must travel, the NWS advises carrying additional essentials such as a flashlight, food, and water in your vehicle for emergencies. Road condition updates can be sought by dialing 511.
Denver’s 9 News reports that the Denver metro area will experience a mix of snow and rain, with snow turning to rain as temperatures climb into the lower 40s on Saturday morning. The transition back to snow could occur post-sunset, complicating travel plans for weekend skiers and potentially causing delays due to the heavy snowfall in the mountain areas. The Palmer Divide and foothills might see slushy conditions that could refreeze overnight, urging residents and visitors to prepare for possible delays and closures.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) has issued an Avalanche Watch for most of the state, warning of increased avalanche risk throughout the weekend. The Northern Mountains, in particular, are under close watch with conditions expected to become more perilous. Observations indicate weak surface conditions across various terrains, heightening the risk of avalanches as new snow accumulates.
In the Southern Mountains, over two inches of snow water equivalent (SWE) are anticipated, leading to dangerous avalanche conditions. The storm’s progression from warm to colder temperatures exacerbates the risk, especially in areas with a weaker snowpack where avalanches could break wider and run deeper than expected.
- Stay Informed: Keep updated with the latest weather reports and road conditions.
- Travel Preparedness: Carry necessary supplies including extra food, water, and warm clothing.
- Avalanche Awareness: Avoid backcountry travel in high-risk areas and familiarize yourself with avalanche safety practices.
- Postpone Non-Essential Travel: Consider delaying travel plans to avoid being caught in hazardous conditions.
- Emergency Kit: Ensure your vehicle is equipped with an emergency kit containing a flashlight, batteries, blankets, and a first-aid kit.
As the storm approaches, officials urge residents and visitors to exercise caution and prioritize safety by adhering to the issued warnings and preparation guidelines. With the storm expected to clear by Sunday, the community is hopeful for a swift return to safer and more navigable conditions.