Heavy snowfall predicted in Summit County for the weekend
June 16, 2016
A spring tradition of sorts, April's balmy weather will be interrupted by heavy snow over the next few days. With a winter storm warning in effect for the mountains through Sunday morning, a total accumulation up to four feet of snow is predicted for the weekend. Forecasters predict the storm will hit the western slopes the hardest on Friday, then shift with larger accumulations on the Front Range, before reaching a standstill near the Four Corners area.
"It's kind of a prolonged event," National Weather Service Regional Coordinator Chad Gimmestad said. "Most of the snow is gonna be on the east side of the divide. …It will taper off as you go westward."
According to the advisory, 8 to 17 inches of snowfall are expected through Saturday. In heavy snow showers, visibility could be less than one mile, with north winds from 10 to 20 miles per hour.
Warmer spring temperatures will bring wet, heavy snow to the mountains. With temperatures lingering just below freezing, Gimmestad estimated that once the thaw starts, road should clear quickly.
"The recovery will probably be faster than a winter storm," he added.
OpenSnow meteorologist Joel Gratz forecasted on Saturday and Sunday night, the heaviest snow will fall east of the divide, while locations west of the divide will see lighter accumulations of two to four inches. On Sunday, the snow will continue in the form of light snow showers.
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"Sunday should be a the tail end of back-to-back powder days with the deepest accumulations near and east of the divide and some leftovers (or more if we're lucky) for other areas," Gratz wrote in Friday's Colorado Daily Snow report.
In preparation for the fast snow accumulation, Summit County road crews had their usual crew in addition to on-call snowplows on call throughout Friday. The Colorado Department of Transportation reported 78 plows in service per shift in West Central Colorado.
Interstate 70 road closures began as early as 3:30 p.m. Friday, with several cars backed up at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel due to major accidents.
"We anticipate challenges into the night. You have a heavy, heavy snowstorm," CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said. "When the volume of snow is half-an-inch to an inch per hour is when we don't have the capacity to keep up."
She advised drivers to avoid taking to the roads if possible, and if they must venture out, to make sure they have the right tires. Passenger vehicle traction laws requiring cars to have four-wheel drive, snow tires or chains will likely be in effect throughout the weekend. In the event of a passenger chain law, cars are required to carry chains or an alternative traction device. Drivers found without this equipment may be fined $130, or up to $650 if a roadway is blocked. Ford encouraged drivers to check cotrip.org for conditions and closures prior to hitting the road.
"When you're in these conditions, it's best to drive as little as possible," she added.
Drivers are also advised to keep a flashlight, food and water in their vehicle in case of an emergency.
In addition, CDOT is cancelling Bustang services along the I-70 corridor through Saturday morning. Bustang service for the remainder of the weekend is "to be determined" based on road and weather conditions.
The Denver Post reported Xcel Energy is sending more than 90 additional crews, or more than 920 people, to Colorado to assist with maintenance.