Winter storm sweeps Colorado
Ryan Summerlin January 29, 2013
The National Weather Service is predicting between 8 to 12 inches of snowfall during this week, which has prompted a winter storm warning to be issued from 5 p.m. on Tuesday to 5 p.m. on Thursday.
The winter-storm warning was issued due to the expectancy of prolonged periods of snow and strong winds that will be headed for Grand County and the surrounding areas.
After a lull in the snowfall on Tuesday morning, the snow was expected to start falling again Tuesday night and continue into Thursday as a persistent and strong northwest flow of moisture positions itself across the northern mountains, according to Jim Keeney, weather program manager for the National Weather Service’s Central Region.
Also expected with the snow is an increase in wind speeds that are expected to reach 20 to 35 mph with gusts in excess of 50 mph above timberline by Wednesday morning.
The flow of the weather has changed from a flow moving southwest, which usually hits the southern part of the state harder, to a northwesterly flow, which usually will drop more snow in the central and northern areas of the state.
While the parts of southern Colorado have seen as much as 3 feet of snow in the past week, due to the change on the flow of the weather, Grand County could see a good amount of snow drop throughout the week.
The storm is expected to move through the state by Thursday, leaving a sunny and warm weekend.
While the precipitation is a relief after the heat wave that recently swept through the county, the increase in wind and snow will create hazardous travel conditions for both motorists and backcountry users.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has issued a traffic advisory for northwest Colorado due to icy and snowpacked conditions on the highways and mountain passes.
Maintenance crews from CDOT remain on 12 hour shifts, from midnight to noon and noon to midnight, throughout Grand County and northwest Colorado. The snow shifts will last 24 hours a day until the storm passes.
Motorists are advised that bridges, overpasses, and ramps will freeze first and should remember “Ice and Snow, Take it Slow.”
Motorists can call 511 or visit cotrip.org for current road conditions throughout the state.
The combination of the decent amount of snow that is expected to fall and the high levels of winds in the high country have the potential to increase the avalanche danger in the backcountry around Grand County, according to Ethan Greene, the director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Currently the Front Range Zone, which includes Grand County, remains at the moderate level. This is much better than the rest of the state which has been moved to a high level of avalanche danger due to recent storms.
The moderate rating of the front range is likely to change in coming days as the snow continues to fall and the wind begins to build windslabs that could range from anywhere from 1 inch to 12 inches thick.
The main concern remains persistent slabs near and above treeline on northwest, north, northeast, and east aspects steeper than about 35 degrees.
The persistent slabs as well as the wind loaded slopes and even shallow wind slabs, could cut down into deeper weak layers creating a larger and more destructive avalanche.
Greene reminds backcountry travelers to “get information, get education, and carry proper equipment.”
You can get current information about the avalanche danger by visiting CAIC’s website at colorado.gov/avalanche. You can also click the education tab at the site to learn where and how you can attend classes and you can also follow links there to online education resources. As for equipment, every person in your party should carry a minimum of a beacon, shovel, and probe.