DENVER, COLORADO – Across the northern Colorado Rocky Mountains, residents and travelers are bracing for a severe winter storm that is forecast to last until 5 p.m. on Saturday, January 13.
The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a winter storm warning, strongly advising against travel in the affected areas. This caution comes in light of the expected harsh conditions that could potentially create hazardous situations, particularly for those planning to traverse the mountainous regions.
The storm, which is set to take effect at 11 p.m. Thursday, January 11, is expected to bring significant snowfall to the mountains. Predictions estimate a snow accumulation of anywhere between 6 to 14 inches. Additionally, the higher elevations and east-facing slopes are likely to face wind gusts ranging from 50 to 70 mph. These conditions are not only conducive to reduced visibility but also pose a serious risk for those on the roads.
Given the expected deteriorating conditions, the NWS suggests that drivers either delay their travel over the mountains or consider completing their journey early on Friday, before the worst of the storm hits. However, for those who find travel unavoidable, extreme caution is urged. The winter storm warning also advises drivers to be well-prepared for emergencies. Essential items such as tire chains, booster cables, flashlights, shovels, blankets, extra clothing, water, and first aid kits should be readily available in vehicles to assist in the event of becoming stranded.
OpenSnow meteorologist Sam Colentine has provided a detailed update for Interstate 70, highlighting the gravity of the upcoming conditions. Friday is expected to be particularly challenging with very windy and cold weather, leading to difficult travel conditions that could extend from midday Friday through Monday. The temperatures on the mountain are anticipated to struggle to rise out of the single digits on Friday, exacerbating the already challenging conditions as the snowstorm intensifies in the afternoon.
Colentine further notes that from Friday afternoon into Saturday, travelers can expect the situation to worsen with high winds and heavy snow creating conditions that could range from difficult to impossible for travel. The potential for multiple road closures is high, making travel in the area particularly perilous. According to Colentine, the peak of the storm cycle is expected to begin Saturday night and intensify by Sunday morning, leading to “full-on storm skiing” conditions. This will continue into the weekend, with icy roads and high winds being replaced by heavy snow, further lowering visibility.
An additional factor to consider is the timing of the storm. Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend is one of the busiest times of the year for the I-70 mountain corridor. Reflecting on last year’s holiday travel forecast by the I-70 Coalition, the period saw almost daily delays and heavy traffic on the interstate. This year, the combination of the holiday traffic with the severe weather conditions could result in even more challenging circumstances for travelers.
In conclusion, this winter storm poses significant risks for those in and around Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Staying informed, preparing adequately for travel, and adhering to safety recommendations are crucial steps in navigating the weekend’s severe weather. Residents and visitors alike are urged to exercise caution and prioritize safety in the face of this challenging winter storm.