The National Weather Service is not changing its forecast for the mountains, except in regards to how much snow Summit County could receive before the storm moves out of the area Friday.
Jim Kalina, meteorologist with the weather service in Boulder, said a winter storm advisory remains in effect until 5 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31. On Wednesday, Kalina said Summit County could receive anywhere between 12 and 27 inches of snow, depending on elevation. On Thursday, Kalina upped that prediction to 16 to 30 inches by the end of the week.
“The storm is right on track with what we were forecasting,” he said. “It looks like you’re (Summit County) going to continue to experience heavy snowfall through the duration of this storm.”
There’s a slight chance another storm could bring more snow Saturday, Kalina said, before a brief break in the weather Sunday. Another storm is on pace to roll into the mountains beginning Monday and potentially lasting into Wednesday.
“It doesn’t look anything like this storm, but there is some weather that looks like it will move into the area,” Kalina said. “There won’t nearly be as much snow or wind because it doesn’t look to have a lot of moisture. You guys need storms with a lot of moisture to get the big snowfalls.”
Despite all of the snow, employees with the Colorado Department of Transportation were keeping pace with the storm. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, there was little to report in terms of highway and road closures. U.S. Highway 6 at Loveland Pass was the only stretch of local highway closed Thursday due to the storm.
However, residents and motorists can expect some closures Friday, Jan. 31, for avalanche mitigation operations, said CDOT spokeswoman Tracy Trulove. CDOT workers will be blasting at Loveland Pass Friday morning in hopes of reopening it at some point in the afternoon.
Avalanche mitigation operations also are scheduled for early Friday morning on Interstate 70, just west of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel. Traffic will be stopped during avalanche blasting, but traffic delays into Summit County shouldn’t last long, Trulove said.
CDOT also plans to close Berthoud Pass near Winter Park for avalanche mitigation, Trulove said.
Officials planned to close Berthoud Thursday night, with avalanche blasting scheduled to continue until 8 a.m. Friday.
Aside from early-morning delays Friday, Trulove said I-70 should remain open in both directions, barring any accidents. Summit County has nine CDOT plows working around the clock, and Eagle County has 15 ensuring roads remain drivable to Vail.
“Our guys are really doing a great job clearing I-70,” Trulove said. “Typically, our lane and highway closures are due to accidents from people traveling to the mountains unprepared for the weather or without proper snow tires.
“As always, we encourage people to slow down and leave plenty of space between cars if they are traveling this week in the mountains.”
Although the Summit School District elected to close school Thursday, superintendent Heidi Pace said officials would wait until Friday morning to assess the weather before announcing any further closures.
Local government officials said town and county offices would remain open to maintain public services, even if forced to do so in a limited capacity.
“It doesn’t happen often, but there have been times in the past when we’ve had to close down the courthouse,” said Summit County manager Gary Martinez. “We have a lot of employees who live in the far reaches of the county, so if it’s really bad we may tell some people to stay home, but we plan to remain open even if we have a limited staff.”
Dillon town manager Joe Wray echoed those sentiments, saying Thursday that if nothing else the town would maintain all of its public safety and health services.
“We don’t want to put anyone’s safety in jeopardy, so no matter what the weather brings we’ll still maintain some level of town operations,” Wray said.
“There may be some delays in responding to calls for assistance, but we will be operating as usual.”
On Wednesday, the weather service said Summit could receive anywhere between 12 and 27 inches of snow, depending on elevation. On Thursday, the prediction was upped to 16 to 30 inches by the end of the week.