GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Break out the wool sweaters and down jackets. A major early winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of Garfield County on Wednesday is to be followed by bitter cold temperatures.
According to the National Weather Service forecast for the Glenwood Springs area, temperatures were expected to dip to 5 degrees below zero last night, and could dip to 8-below or even lower in some locations tonight.
Some weather sources were even forecasting temperatures as low as minus-20 along parts of the Western Slope.
Snowfall overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday measuring anywhere from 5 inches to more than a foot resulted in school being canceled for the day in all three Garfield County school districts from Carbondale to Parachute.
Colorado Mountain College classes were also canceled, as were numerous public meetings and events in the area.
A slight chance of continued snow was expected through Thursday before tapering off Friday, then returning for the weekend with another 30 percent chance of snow on Saturday and highs in the 20s.
“It’s definitely one of the biggest snowfalls we’ve seen so far this season, especially at the lower elevations,” said Jim Pringle, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
While heavy snow during the transitional period between fall and winter is not uncommon, the bitter cold is a bit unusual this early, he said.
“When we get these valley inversions this time of year, it can be very long lasting,” Pringle said.
That’s especially true in the lower Grand Valley, he said, where inversions coupled with the sun’s reflection off the snow can lead to an extended period of bitter cold temperatures.
“Hopefully we get a few more storms between now and Christmas to help move some of that cold air back out,” Pringle added.
The official weather reporting station in Glenwood Springs, located at radio station KMTS, recorded an official snowfall of 5 inches between 9 a.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to station manager Gabe Chenowith.
“That was the amount on the ground, but it was such a cold and dry snow that it blew around a lot,” he said. “The moisture content was only three-tenths of an inch. We had some rains in August that were at least an inch [of precipitation].”
Pringle said reports from some of the local weather observers who post their information to the national Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow website [www.cocoahs.org] reported localized snow depths of 13 inches in New Castle and 7 inches in Carbondale.
Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs reported 13 inches of new snow overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, and had a 33-inch base at the top of the ski area. The Aspen Ski Company was also reporting anywhere from 12-14 inches at its ski mountains.
According to National Weather Service historical data, the record snowfall in Glenwood Springs for Dec. 4 was 5.3 inches in 1950. The record for Dec. 5 was 11.6 inches in 1951.