El Niño brings Pineapple Express to Colorado; heavy snow on the way

Snow will increase overnight

DENVER - Hard to believe that temperatures were in the 60s to near 70 degrees over the Denver metro area early Saturday afternoon!  Cold and snow have quickly taken over and the weather will be quite nasty for traveling - but great for skiing during the next 48 hours.

How did this storm start?

Satellite images actually show moisture from this storm extends from the West Coast all the way back to Hawaii. This system is  a “Pineapple Express” – meaning that it will tap tropical moisture from the central Pacific and carry it into California, and eventually to Colorado.

Check out your latest forecast

These kind of storm systems are not uncommon during an El Nino winter, as the added heat in the equatorial Pacific helps to fuel these potent precipitation producers.  Heavy rain, flooding and mudslides remain the weather worries in California, along with several feet of wet, slushy snow for the Sierra Nevada.

To help the storm system develop, the rich flow of tropical moisture is being further enhanced by a very strong band of jet stream winds roaring in across the northern Pacific Ocean. The winds aloft are reaching speeds close to 200 mph off the West Coast – adding much more energy to an already robust storm system.

For Denver and the eastern plains of Colorado

The storm will pack a pretty solid punch through Monday.  Most areas are under a Winter Storm Warning and can expect 8 to 12 inches of snow.

The expected snowfall for the mountains will be 12-24 inches by late Monday, with some west facing slopes getting closer to 3 feet of snow. The storm will begin to diminish in the high country Monday afternoon, but there will still be plenty of blowing snow and several more inches of snow accumulating through Tuesday morning.

The prime time for snow in the Denver area and across eastern Colorado will be Sunday night and Monday. Both of the Monday commutes will be icy and very slow – plenty of time and patience will be required.  There may be some school delays and closures on Monday, especially for districts east of Denver.

By Tuesday, the storm will have zipped off to the east of Colorado, leaving flurries, gusty winds and cold temperatures.  Highs will likely stay in the 20s in Denver and the lows will drop to the teens and even single digits.

This storm will remain a major concern for the central United States and the Great Lakes. Blizzard conditions are expected over eastern Nebraska and Iowa, all the way into Michigan.  To the south, severe thunderstorms with possible tornadoes are expected from the Ohio Valley to the Gulf Coast.

Wednesday through Friday will stay dry on the plains, but periods of light snow can be expected in the mountains. Temperatures will be slow to moderate next week and may only get back into the 40s by Thursday and Friday.


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