It’s been quite some time since we’ve talked about a big snowstorm in Denver and while this won’t be a chart-topping storm, it will produce the most snow we’ve seen this winter and sub-zero temperatures.
A strong trough digging into the Pacific Northwest will conjoin with a weak disturbance near the southern California coast to bring the Front Range its first substantial snow of the season. This season has only produced 0.3 inches of snow thus far — well behind the normal 20-plus inches we should have by the end of December. While some of the snow that is coming will fall on the last day of this month, we will still end the month with below-average snowfall.
Here are the details on the incoming snow and cold for New Year.
First off, the cold that is coming with this storm is going to be pretty intense. We haven’t seen cold like this since way early in the year and have definitely not seen temperatures like this yet this season.
A cold front will drop down from Wyoming on Friday morning. This will bring temperatures from the 40s in and around Denver down into the teens and 20s in the early afternoon. By midnight, temperatures will be well into the lower to mid-teens. Those out celebrating the New Year will be faced with some bitter cold. Saturday morning temperatures should bottom out between 5 to 10 degrees, from Fort Collins to Castle Rock. Temperatures in Colorado Springs will be in the mid-teens Saturday morning. For everyone, wind chill values — what it actually feels like on your skin — will be in the 0- to -20-degree range. That is dangerously cold.
Thanks to new snow on the ground, Saturday afternoon highs will not break out of the teens. It will be our coldest day of the season so far. Denver has not recorded a high temperature below freezing yet this winter and that has never happened before. Saturday’s highs will remain below freezing but that is technically next year so we’ll end the year with no sub-freezing high temperatures for the start of this season.
Saturday night into Sunday morning will be the coldest night of the upcoming forecast. Thanks to new snow and clear skies, optimal cooling will be achieved overnight and lows will drop to near zero for many, but others will feel temperatures below zero by Sunday morning.
Make sure you bring your animals inside or provide some shelter and protect yourself too. These are the types of wind chills that can cause frostbite in 15-20 minutes for exposed skin.
A cold front will drop through our area Friday morning and snow will begin shortly after that. Expect snow to fall in the foothills and western suburbs of Denver, including Superior and Louisville, between 10 am and noon. For Denver and points east, snow will begin between noon and 3 p.m.
The initial snow will be a bit heavy and some banding may set up, which will provide heavier snowfall rates from time to time. The heaviest and most consistent snow will fall after dark. By midnight, a couple of inches of snow will be on the ground. Light snow continues overnight into Saturday morning before tapering off around noon. In total, up to a half-foot of snow may fall in Denver while areas like Fort Collins, Boulder, Estes Park, Nederland, Conifer and Idaho Springs will see totals between five and 10 inches.
The mountains will see very big snows from this system, so travel advisories are up for that. Expect major delays on mountain highways and very slick driving conditions along the Interstate 25 corridor from Friday afternoon to Saturday. Winter storm warnings extend from Fort Collins to Estes Park to Boulder to Evergreen. Winter Weather Advisories are posted in Denver and Castle Rock for 3 to 6 inches of snow by Saturday.
Andy Stein is a freelance meteorologist.
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