Weather hub: Late-season snow blankets much of Front Range

Posted at 11:08 AM, May 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-19 01:40:16-04

FRONT RANGE – Heavy snow is already falling in the foothills and mountains of the Front Range, and a winter storm warning is in effect for much of the Denver area and northern Colorado through Friday afternoon.

Snow had already fallen across much of the Front Range both north and west of Denver Thursday morning.

Thursday is expected to be wet and slushy in Denver, as rain changes back over to snow late in the morning.

The Denver area is expected to receive between 2 and 6 inches of snow through Friday, as are the western parts of Arapahoe, Adams and Elbert counties.

Denver Public Works officials said Thursday afternoon they will have extra crews on duty through the night to respond to flooding complaints and help clear blocked inlets.  

Due to rising water levels, parts of the Cherry Creek Trail were closed near 1st Avenue, according to officials. 

VIEW | Current radar conditions

Douglas, Jefferson and Boulder counties could receive between 6 and 12 inches of snow, with higher levels coming as one gets closer to the foothills.

In the mountains, anywhere between 8 and 16 inches of snow is forecast, though the northern mountains could see up to 3 feet in some places.

GALLERY | See photos from this storm as it slams the foothills and metro area. 

Rocky Mountain National Park said it was expecting accumulations of up to 3 feet.

The National Weather Service is warning that snow could fall at rates of 1-2 inches per hour in some places.

The Red Cross opened an emergency shelter in Estes Park in case anyone traveling in the area is in need of a warm, safe place from the dropping temperatures. The shelter is located at Presbyterian Community Church, 1700 Brodie Avenue.  

Officials with the Town of Estes Park announced Thursday evening offices will be closed Friday due to "deteriorating weather conditions."

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a special avalanche advisory at noon Thursday, effective through 5 p.m. Friday, warning anyone traveling in the backcountry that avalanches will be likely over the next several days.

But some places could get even higher totals than forecast.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the storm had already dumped more than 8 inches in most locations across the mountains, with some places receiving close to 2 feet and more coming.

  • Copper Mountain to Silverthorne 19"
  • Breckenridge 15" 
  • Grand Mesa 15"
  • Aspen area 8 to 10"
  • Crested Butte area 6 to 8"
  • North San Juan Mountains 8 to 17" with the highest totals in the Needle Mountains
  • South San Juan Mountains 7 to 13" with the highest totals northwest of Wolf Creek Pass
  • Rocky Mountain National Park 14"
  • Berthoud, Vail, and Loveland Passes 12"
  • Steamboat/Flat Tops 8-12"

Some areas of the Boulder County foothills had already received 26 inches of snow by 2 p.m. Thursday.

Some power outages have been reported throughout the day as the heavy, wet snow takes out power lines -- particular in northwest Boulder County.

About 1,200 homes were without power in Red Feather Lakes, Livermore, Crystal Lakes, Bellvue, Masonville and surrounding areas, as well as in the foothills, according to Poudre Valley Rural Electrification Administration officials said Wednesday evening.

Homes around Longmont, Loveland and Wellington are also experiencing power outages.  

Rolling traffic information

The Colorado Department of Transportation shut down westbound I-70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel around 10:30 a.m. Thursday for a safety closure as heavy snow fell in the area.

It reopened around 11:30 a.m., but heavy delays are expected throughout the day on I-70.

Highway 36 was shut down from Lyons to Estes Park about 30 minutes earlier. Estes Park could see some of the heaviest snowfall in this storm. Highway 34 remains open at this time, though it is expected to close at 1:30 p.m.

U.S. Highway 6 was also closed at Loveland Pass overnight.

Traction laws remain in place along the I-70 mountain corridor.

Traffic was starting to back up in the Monument Hill area along I-25 around 11:15 as well. Colorado State Patrol said heavy delays should be expected throughout the day as snow continues to fall.

You can always look at our traffic page or the CDOT page for the latest road conditions in the state.

For tips on driving in the snow, click here.

Some schools closed, delayed Thursday; events too

The Boulder Valley School District canceled classes at four schools Thursday as weather conditions worsened. Nederland Middle/Senior, Nederland Elementary, Jamestown Elementary and Gold Hill Elementary will be closed. All other schools in the district will be operating as normal, officials said.

Colorado State University decided to close at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, cancelling all classes and events for the rest of the day.

Most of the Colorado state baseball tournament has also been rescheduled, according to CHSAA.

VIEW: Full list of school closures

Jefferson County Public Schools announced at around 3:30 p.m. that some of their graduation events scheduled for Thursday had been moved or rescheduled. 

All graduations scheduled at Red Rocks Amphitheater were affected by the weather. The following schools have changed venues: 

Bear Creek, Columbine, Golden, Dakota Ridge, Evergreen High and Chatfield high schools have all rescheduled their events. Check each school website for more information about graduation events.     

Weather conditions have also prompted school officials in Summit County to cancel classes. All schools in the district are closed Thursday. The district had originally announced a delayed start but moved ahead with a full closure hours later.

No other major school districts in the area are reporting closures. However, some districts have delayed or rescheduled school-related activities, including the state track and field championship.

The meet was going to be held at the Jeffco Stadium Thursday, but officials said track conditions won't allow for safe competition. The meet has been postponed to Sunday.

Thorntonfest was also cancelled for just the second time in 22 years because Carpenter Park flooded. More information on its closure and other events that are being rearranged in Thornton can be found here.

Late-season snow history

Though late-season snow is not abnormal whatsoever in Colorado, Denver could see some of its higher late-season totals in history in this storm.

The heaviest late snowfall, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder, was a May 25-26, 1950 storm that dumped nearly 11 inches on Denver.

The heaviest Denver snow in recent history, according to the weather service, was May 17, 1983, when Denver saw 7.1 inches.

In six out of the last 10 years, May has been the month the Denver area has gotten its last measurable snowfall for the season.

This story will be updated throughout the day with the latest weather conditions. Check on our weather pages, and with the Storm Shield App for the latest updates.