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Major winter storm brings snow, colder weather to area

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – It wasn’t a white Christmas anywhere below about 8,000 feet in the Roaring Fork Valley, but it’s shaping up to be a white, not to mention cold, new year.

A cold front accompanying a major winter storm that blew into western Colorado on Wednesday will bring snow – rather than the rain experienced at lower elevations with last week’s storm – and potentially lots of it.

“We’ve had reports so far of 8 to 10 inches of snow in Paradox, in southwest Colorado,” Jim Pringle, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Junction, said Wednesday afternoon. “And the cold front hasn’t even gotten here yet.”



That was expected to change overnight, as the mountain areas were forecast to receive between 1 and 2 feet of snow by the time the storm blows out on Friday afternoon, according to the NWS.

Lower elevations, including Glenwood Springs, may see 6 to 12 inches of new snow. After that, brace for the coldest temperatures of the season, just in time for New Year’s Eve when temperatures are expected to drop below zero, Pringle said.



“We’re going to have some very cold air move in after the storm pulls out,” he said. “It will definitely be the coldest temperatures we’ve experienced so far this season. Some areas could see 20 below zero.”

The accompanying cold front and the origin of the moisture are the biggest differences between this storm and the one last week, in which daytime temperatures hovered around the mid-40s.

Think Hawaii versus Alaska.

“We had a much warmer air mass last week, with the bulk of the energy and moisture coming up from the southwest,” Pringle said. “This storm is getting its moisture from the mid latitudes, with the air streaming down out of Canada.”

The temperature extremes from one week to the next are typical of the La Nina weather pattern that’s expected to persist into the new year, he said.

“We’re still in a moderate strung La Nina,” Pringle said of the weather phenomenon that’s defined by below-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.

“It’s more unstable than the El Nino pattern, with typically more wild fluctuations, which is what we’ve seen over the last week,” he said.

Both storms produced significant amounts of snow in higher elevations, which has boosted snowpack in much of western Colorado to more than 100 percent of normal.

The current storm was also expected to make holiday travel conditions hazardous in the mountain regions, including along the Interstate 70 corridor.

“Travel is not recommended,” the NWS service advised in issuing a winter storm warning on Wednesday. “However, if you plan travel anywhere in western Colorado or eastern Utah through Friday, be prepared for severe winter driving conditions.”

The storm was also expected to bring snow to Denver and other Front Range areas, which also did not receive snow from last week’s storm.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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