The wildfires burning in Colorado’s High Country and Foothills have seen nothing but hot, dry and windy conditions but a potent cold front with snow on the way will bring much needed relief to our drought-stricken state. 

The Thursday drought monitor map update showed nothing but a worsening situation across Colorado. Still, 100-percent of the state is under a moderate drought. 97-percent is under severe drought. 77-percent is under extreme drought (up 18-percent since last week) and 22-percent of the state (up 5 percent from last week) is under the highest category of drought. Exceptional drought. 

Drought Map as of 10.22.20

Our drought in Colorado is part of a bigger drought impacting much of the Western US which is seeing one of the worst droughts in years. 

This upcoming weekend storm set to bring cold air and snow is coming a little too late for many folks who have already lost their homes, property and businesses to these fires but with the fires still raging, we will take every single drop and every single snowflake that is allotted. 

Paul Shlatter, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Boulder explained that “The highest totals could exceed a foot of snow from Saturday night through Monday across the Northern Front Range and Higher Foothills.” He added that “this will absolutely help with containing the spread of the fires, but it’s unknown that this amount would actually put {these wildfires} out.” 

Schlatter explained that just like in early September when we saw 12-18 inches of snow fall on the Cameron Peak Fire, it was the conditions after – weeks of dry, warm and windy weather – that led to that fire growing fast in size rather than that being a storm to extinguish the fire. 

Even with temperatures falling in the single-digits and possibly below-zero for a couple nights, that would not be enough to end the fires. “How much liquid is absorbed or taken in by the fuels and those fuel characteristics” is what matters when we talk about a fire-ending storm, Schlatter says. The fuels being the dry bushes and trees and beetle kill trees that are in these fires path. “The East Troublesome would need at least 1-inch of liquid (or 14-18-inches of snow) and for it to not get extremely dry after this event” for it to end this fire completely. 

For lower elevations around Denver, that powerful cold front will blast through the city Saturday night dropping temperatures into the teens and 20s. Snow will begin to fall Saturday night and last through Monday with temperatures not reaching above freezing until Tuesday afternoon. Total snow is looking to be in the 3-6-inch range  for Denver so expect tough driving conditions and brutal cold to last for several days. Overnight lows Monday and Tuesday may dip into the single digits for Denver. 

The remainder of next week is looking cool but sunny. 

Though this weather change is right on our heels, fire conditions will continue to be conducive for further fire development and growth through Saturday. With intense winds and warmth on tap ahead of the cold front starting Friday night, the Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Calwood fires will need to be monitored closely for erratic fire behavior. 

For more information regarding the current wildfires burning: 

Cameron Peak Fire  – Fire UpdateEvacuation Updates 

East Troublesome Fire – Fire Update Evacuation Updates Estes Park Area Grand County 

Calwood Fire – Fire UpdateEvacuation Updates 

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