Heavy snow tonight west of the Divide in Colorado

A Pacific storm system is moving into Western Colorado tonight with heavy snowfall amounts expected across much of the higher terrain of Colorado west of the Continental Divide.  This storm system has already produced several feet of snow across the Sierra Nevada in California, as well as heavy snow in Utah.  

Colorado’s mountains are now getting in on the action as well, with southwest flow favoring the San Juan and Elk Ranges south of I-70 initially.  The image below shows the most relative humidity analysis at the 7,000-millibar relative, which corresponds to roughly 10,000′ of elevation and is a good measure of moisture for the mountain areas of Colorado.



Later tonight, a gradual shift in the upper level flow from southwest to west, and eventually northwest, will allow the mountain areas along and north of I-70 to pick up heavy snowfall amounts as well.  By Friday morning, most of Colorado’s mountain areas west of the Continental Divide will have picked up impressive snowfall amounts, with double digit totals likely for many ski areas.  Road conditions will quickly deteriorate tonight through Friday morning throughout the Colorado’s high country, making for a challenging Friday morning commute.

East of the Continental Divide, this storm will mostly be a miss for the Front Range cities due to a lack of upslope flow.  However, a cold front will arrive Friday morning as the low pressure system swings across the Continental Divide, and banded snow showers are expected to develop across the I-25 corridor during the daytime hours.

Winds from the north/northwest will be unfavorable for Denver snow, with most areas east of the mountains expected to receive snowfall amounts of less than an inch, except perhaps under isolated heavier bands or across the Palmer Divide.  Temperatures near freezing as well as the timing during the daytime hours should also limit road impacts across the Denver area and I-25 corridor.

Looking farther out, the next system is slated to reach Colorado on Monday, and at this time there appears to be a chance for Denver to see a more meaningful snowfall event Monday night or Tuesday.

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