Above average snowfall continues with recent storm
Many people spent the start of the week digging out of freshly fallen snow, which shut down school districts across the region and caused traffic issues largely in the eastern part of the county.
It was a white start to a February that followed a January and December with above average precipitation, which was in step with predictions from the National Weather Service as previously reported by The Citizen Telegram.
The most recent storm brought roughly .31 inches of precipitation in Rifle, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. The total for the first couple of days of February 2016 is more than the .07 inches of precipitation recorded at Rifle-Garfield County Regional Airport for the entire month of February in 2015.
The airport does not measure snowfall but an independent spotter in Rifle reported a total of 4½ inches of snow from the recent storm, which Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said is comparable with the .31 inches of precipitation.
Snowfall totals varied elsewhere in the region and the impact from the most recent storm was mixed.
The Post Independent reported numerous traffic incidents earlier this week, including a nearly four-hour closure of Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs Monday evening. Other weather-related incidents were reported on Highway 82.
Within Rifle city limits, the impact was felt less and, aside from a few minor traffic incidents, there was nothing out of the ordinary, Police Chief John Dyer said.
“We came away relatively unscathed,” he said, adding that much of that was due to the snow removal work by the city’s public works department.
The snow, which led the National Weather Service to issue a winter storm warning early Monday morning for many cities and towns along Interstate 70, forced Garfield Re-2 to cancel classes Monday. It was the district’s first winter weather closure of the 2015-16 school year.
On Monday evening, Re-2, along with Roaring Fork and Aspen schools, called off classes for a second straight day Tuesday. Garfield School District 16, which was closed Monday due to the district’s four-day school week, also canceled classes Tuesday.
“After having school district personnel investigate all of the major streets, as well as many the neighborhoods, roads in and around the district are still very hazardous, despite the short relief from more snowfall,” Ken Haptonstall, Garfield 16 superintendent, wrote on the district’s Facebook page Monday night. “In an effort to keep the students and staff safe, Garfield 16 schools will not be in session (Tuesday).”
In announcing its closures, Garfield Re-2 explained the district’s procedure for evaluating school closures. That process typically starts the night before and continues early in the morning, with district officials communicating with the Colorado Department of Transportation and others, all while reviewing current and future weather information, according to the district.
The recent storm came at the end of a snow-heavy January. The Rifle airport recorded 1.07 inches of precipitation for the month, well above the monthly average of .81 inches. December also exceeded its monthly average of .84 inches, with the airport recording 1.13 inches of precipitation in the final month of 2015.
All of this is in keeping with earlier predictions that stated a better-than-not chance for above average precipitation in the winter months of December, January and February, Cuoco, said.
This winter might seem even more extreme when considering the precipitation totals for winter months in 2014-15 were well below monthly averages.
As for the rest of February, Cuoco said the next storm should move into the area Thursday afternoon and into Friday, however, it will not be as severe as the storm that moved through the area earlier this week.
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Rifle Police say Chayton Reynolds was arrested after allegedly driving drunk and hitting Robert Baumwoll, 50, around 7:20 a.m. Jan. 22 on Highway 6 east of Rifle.