DENVER – Winter storm warnings, winter weather advisories and avalanche warnings are in effect across Colorado’s mountains as snow and high winds move into the High Country on Wednesday afternoon.
The National Weather Service upgraded an earlier advisory to a winter storm warning for the mountains of Summit County, the Mosquito Range and Indian Peaks, where 6 to 14 inches of snow are now expected with wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service said snow could fall at rates of 2 inches an hour, particularly along I-70, in some spots that are seeing banded snow and snow squalls.
Snow, heavy at times in the mountains thru tonight. Snowfall rates may approach 2" per hour in the heavier bands, along the I-70 corridor thru the mountains. Wind gusts to 60 mph over mountain passes will result in blowing snow, reduced vsby & hazardous driving conditions. #cowx pic.twitter.com/JT2fkerMuG— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) February 3, 2021
Other than the area now under a winter storm warning, winter weather advisories are in effect for most of the northern, central and southern mountain ranges until 9 a.m. Thursday.
For Jackson, Grand, Larimer, Boulder, Gilpin, Clear Creek, Summit and Park Counties above 9,000 feet elevation, between 6 and 12 inches of snow is expected to fall through Thursday morning and winds will gust up to 60 miles per hour.
In the Elkhead and Park Mountains, as well as the Gore, Elk, and Sawatch Mountains, 6-12 inches of snow is expected above 8,000 feet, with lower amounts expected for lower elevations. Winds will gust up to 50 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.
The new snow and high winds led the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to issue avalanche warnings for the Aspen and Gunnison region on Wednesday into Thursday morning, saying that large natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely to trigger.
The three people who were killed in an avalanche while backcountry skiing in the San Juan Mountains on Monday were identified Wednesday afternoon as three government officials from Eagle County.
The San Juans will receive between 4 and 8 inches of snow, with some locally higher amounts. Winds will gust up to 45 miles per hour at high elevations. In the Sangre de Cristos, between 4 and 8 inches of snow is expected above 11,000 feet.
Snow squalls and banded snow are also likely in the High Country on Wednesday afternoon and into the early evening, according to the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service’s updated 3 p.m. forecast said forecasters are now watching the areas west and southwest of Denver during the afternoon rush hour to see if banded snow will hit that area as well.
Forecasters said the snow and high winds are likely to create difficult travel conditions in the High Country, especially over mountain passes. Wind chills could dip to near -30 degrees on Thursday morning.
The Colorado Department of Transportation says people planning to drive along I-70, U.S. 40 and Colorado Highway 82 Wednesday afternoon through Thursday morning should be prepared for closures and have their vehicles prepared for winter driving and traction laws.
Expect CMV Chain Law and Passenger Vehicle Traction Law in the mountains this afternoon / evening. We will have extra troopers out to check vehicles for required equipment.— CSP Golden (@csp_golden) February 3, 2021
** Snow's Down? Slow Down **
Some highways were already under the passenger traction law as of Wednesday afternoon because of falling snow.
PASSENGER VEHICLE TRACTION LAW RESTRICTIONS— CSP Golden (@csp_golden) February 3, 2021
- Both directions of I-70 between Silverthorne (mp 205) an Georgetown (mp 228).
In Denver and across the plains, temperatures reached the 60s by 11 a.m. Wednesday but are expected to drop throughout the rest of the day. Eventual rain is likely to change to snow this evening and fall into the morning.
The National Weather Service said Wednesday morning that from Denver to Akron and south, there could be periods of heavy snow Wednesday night until around 2 a.m. Thursday.
Overall, however, areas east of the Continental Divide are not expected to see significant snowfall in this storm — likely 1 to 3 inches at most, particularly in the Palmer Divide region.
But temperatures will be back to seasonal levels, in the 20s and 30s, on Thursday ahead of another chance for snow – especially for the mountains – again on Saturday.