It’s been a while since the mountains saw a big snowfall. That’s about to change — in a big way.
A strong storm system will move into the southwest starting on Tuesday night, bringing with it the likelihood for the first significant snowfall of the season for snow-starved southern Colorado. A slow-moving area of low pressure will draw up Pacific moisture, resulting in as much as 30 inches of snow for parts of southwest Colorado by Thursday evening.
For southern Colorado, this storm has the potential to put a notable dent in the recent drought conditions there. Perhaps more importantly, this storm should deliver a big, needed snowfall to the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains of southern Colorado. Most of southern Colorado has seen little-to-no snow so far this fall, even while northern Colorado’s enjoyed a relatively healthy start to the winter season.
Psst. San Juan mountains. 👀 There’s some moisture coming your way! #cowx
Not a #drought buster for the Four Corners, but hopefully helps keep worsening drought conditions at bay. pic.twitter.com/ypPVuXF1pC
— ColoClimateCenter (@ColoradoClimate) November 19, 2019
Snowfall amounts could total up to 30 inches in the San Juan mountains, according to the National Weather Service. The storm’s slow movement from the southwest makes it an ideal setup for a big snow event for western and southern Colorado.
It’s not just the San Juans that’ll see big snow, either. The West Elk, Sawatch and Flat Top mountain ranges were under winter storm watches as of Monday night, with up to a foot of snow anticipated there starting on Tuesday night and lasting into Thursday. That means ski resorts like Aspen, Crested Butte and Snowmass should see healthy snowfall totals from this system.
The central mountains should also see a few inches of snow, though the highest amounts will likely stay in western and southern Colorado. Mountain travel on Interstate 70 will be tricky on Wednesday and Thursday.
As far as the Denver metro area, there is greater uncertainty about snow amounts this week, but this storm generally appears to be a lighter snow event for most of the urban corridor. Snow will likely start on Wednesday as a strong cold front moves in from the north, and light snow will probably stick around for the majority of Thursday.
At this point, the heaviest of the snowfall in Denver looks to fall on Wednesday night as the storm first starts up. While Wednesday’s precipitation may initially start as rain along the Front Range, it should quickly switch over to snow. That could lead to a quick inch or two of snow during or just after Wednesday evening’s commute.
That said, the Denver area will be on the northern fringes of this storm, meaning that snow should be generally light after Wednesday evening’s initial burst. It’ll likely snow lightly throughout the day on Thursday before gradually winding down on Thursday night. Total accumulations look to be about 1 to 3 inches along the Front Range.
As usual, some of Denver’s higher suburbs along the Palmer Divide and the foothills will likely see slightly higher amounts from this storm — perhaps on the order of 3 to 6 inches.
Any snow will add to what’s already been an unusually active start to the winter season for the Denver area. So far this season, Denver has officially seen 13.7 inches of snowfall, well above the season-to-date average of about 9 inches.
It appears that the overall weather pattern could stay active into next week as well. The Climate Prediction Center’s 6 to 10 and 8 to 14 day outlook products both highlight Colorado as having higher-than-average changes for an active week. Another storm looks possible next Monday and Tuesday, which could disrupt early Thanksgiving holiday travel.