Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado comes to a close

A light dusting of snow is scattered on the peaks of Keystone Ski Resort on Sept. 15.
Katie Young/Keystone Resort

This weekend wrapped up Winter Weather Preparedness Week, and meteorologists are urging the public to freshen up their knowledge on how to handle severe winter weather. 

“Over the course of the past week, we have discussed topics ranging from travel to windshields and hypothermia,” Jeff Colton, a warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said. “We discussed the difference between watches and warnings, and we also discussed avalanches and avalanche safety, especially for those who would like to venture out into the backcountry.”

What is a blizzard?

According to the National Weather Service in Boulder, surprisingly, there does not need to be falling snow for a storm to be considered a blizzard, as blowing snow is also an option.

Other characteristics of a blizzard include winds that are over 35 mph and less than a quarter mile of visibility, with all occurring for at least three hours. 

Watch vs. warning

In meteorology, a watch means to prepare and a warning means to take action. A blizzard warning means that severe winter weather is expected in the next 12-36 hours or is occurring. This can include whiteout conditions, and the public is advised to not travel. For a winter storm warning, travelers are warned that considerable travel problems are expected, and dangerous winter conditions are predicted. A winter weather advisory is for potentially dangerous weather and “travel difficulties” are expected. 

“For all (travelers) that are planning on traveling across the Western Slope of Colorado or through the mountains of eastern Utah, now’s the time to learn those lessons and be prepared for this upcoming winter season,” Colton added.

Wind chills and hypothermia

Wind chill is the combination of wind and low temperatures, which can lead to hypothermia. When a person’s body temperature sinks below 96 degrees, they have the a serious health hazard known as hypothermia. Warning signs include confusion, sleepiness and stiff muscles. 

Looking ahead for the rest of this week, Summit County is looking at a relatively dry period after Monday, Oct. 24, until Thursday, Oct. 27, when there’s a chance for snow. Temperatures will bounce back to near normal values Friday, Oct. 28, and Saturday, Oct. 29. 

“The mountains will pick up additional snow as the flow is initially west-southwesterly, but the quick moving trough won’t allow for too much accumulation,” Zach Hiris, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Boulder, said in a long-term forecast.

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