Heavy snow pounds mountains, makes travel a mess

Mountains will end up with feet of snow

DENVER - The mountains have been getting intense snowfall, yet Denver and the plains remain mostly dry.  A story that won't change too much for Monday.  Strong wind will continue to impact travelers Monday, and into Tuesday.

I've seen reports of nearly 2 feet of new snow in the mountains, and another foot is possible through Monday night.  This is great for the ski/snow industry, however it is making travel quite a mess.  Periodic closures have occurred and likely will through Tuesday morning as road conditions remain dangerous.  Also, CDOT is planning on avalanche mitigation Monday which will add to the delays.

What a different, drier, scene here in the Denver area!  It's the first day of winter, and the metro area had some rain tonight.  Sunday was cloudy and windy, but warm with highs near 50 and above. That wind warmed us and kept evening moisture in the form of rain, but that will change overnight and Monday with colder temperatures to change it to snow.

There will be a subtle shift to the wind direction through Monday that may help the rain/snow chances for the Front Range and plains.  Temperatures will also be impacted. The morning will be near freezing, and the midday high will only be around 40.  So, a much cooler day.  This ups-and-downs in the afternoon highs will continue all week (you can see the 7-Day Planner that's attached to this story) as this system leaves and the next arrives toward late Christmas. 

So far, our moisture has been moving into the state from the northwest.  That direction favors the mountains, but leaves the plains dry...clearly.  That same flow will shift a bit tonight and Monday, coming more from the north and northeast.  This slight change in wind direction will help "push" some moisture up against the mountains, the Cheyenne Ridge, and the Palmer Divide.  This will help create a few areas of rain and snow... a few areas.

Those lucky 20%, or so, that have a rain/snow band can expect a bit to stick.  Water amounts will be about a 0.10 of an inch.  If that falls as snow you could see one to three inches.  However, that's for very few of us.  The most likely areas are again, to the north near Larimer County and to the south for Arapahoe, Douglas and Elbert Counties.

This first push of moisture will take a bit of a break Tuesday and Wednesday, which will be the best travel days within the state ahead of Christmas -- although Tuesday will stay windy.  

Then, another push of moisture will move through around Christmas Day.  I don't see nearly as much humidity with that next one though, so the amount and chance for snow will be less than this first system, and again focusing on the central and northern mountains the most.

To be realistic, I won't and can't say that Denver and the city areas won't have snow falling on Christmas.  It certainly remains possible.  However, the chance for snow on the ground or snow falling isn't overly optimistic.  This may be bad for dreamers of a white Christmas, but good news for those traveling.

This isn't much of a shock, as it fits with our history.  Only 18 times since the late 1800s has snow fallen on Christmas Day in the city.  Denver does not have snow fall on Christmas Day very often. Click here to read more about our chances.

Matt Makens has been with us since 2010, calling Castle Rock home.  In fact, that's where he was born and raised.  Nice to have him home after several years working elsewhere.  You can follow him on twitter and facebook.

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