The talk of the town. The potential snowstorm of the year and possibly the snowstorm of the decade and less likely but on the table, one of Denver’s all-time biggest snowstorms.
You’ve seen some wild forecasts showing 5 feet of snow in Colorado and that may not be too far off for some, but the chance of Denver getting 5 feet of snow is just not going to happen but 1 foot of snow? Likely. 2 feet of snow? Possible. 3 feet of snow? Not likely, but not zero.
There’s a lot to unpack and a lot of details to discuss so bear with me.
First off, for the mountains, this is a much easier forecast. Most of the mountains, this will exclude the Wet Mountains in Southern Colorado, will see at least a foot of snow through the weekend. It’s already started snowing there and it will continue. Travel will be difficult in the High Country more times than not in the next 5 days. Plan you travel accordingly. At times, travel will be impossible in the mountains.
Let’s Dive In
The storm that we are tracking is currently swirling over California. It has brought heaving rains, flooding, mudslides, hail and thunderstorms to California which is notable due to the time of the year and amount of energy that is already holds. This should be noted because it’s good to watch what a storm system does ahead of it getting close to our area.
The general trajectory for this storm according to the long-range weather models is for the center of this low to move towards Las Vegas by Friday morning. It’s moving slowly. Then it will continue to move slowly towards Southeast Colorado on Saturday setting up in a perfect location for an upslope snow event.
A low pressure system like this one, during this time of the year – our snowiest month of the season – has proved to be something to watch. Models have had a field day throwing out 50-70″ totals over Denver and the surrounding Foothills 5 to 6 days out! What’s wild, is that now that we are closer to the start of the event, those totals have obviously gone down, but not by as much as you’d expect.
March and April are Denver’s snowiest months because of storms almost exactly like this. We have warmer air (which holds more water), we get stronger storms (due to clashing temperatures) and the combination of those two are what primes us for big snowfall events.
For a perfect scenario to unfold that blasts Denver and the surrounding areas with a lot of snow, we need the center of a low pressure system to track over SE Colorado. Due to the spin around a low pressure system, winds around Denver will blow out of the east and north east. That wind direction forces air up the Rocky Mountains to our west and the Palmer Ridge to our south. When you have rising air, you get moisture. Locations like Evergreen, Estes Park, boulder, Castlerock, Idaho Springs, and Monument perform the best in these setups. Usually, the duration of these winds and the amount of available moisture are what limits totals during these events.
In the approaching storm, long-range and trusted weather models have positioned the center of a strong low pressure system over SE Colorado. What they’ve also picked up on is that this particular storm is a very slow mover to almost stationary at times. Another aspect of this storm is the intensity of it. It’s forecast to bring severe weather to the Central Plains and is grabbing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and swinging it up and around towards us. So far, the models are saying that this is a damn near perfect example of a major upslope snow event for Colorado.
The combination of a slow moving storm with upslope winds is enough to create high totals. Forecast models are also picking up on Jet Stream energy enhancing our snowfall rates at times. Essentially, what this means is that the only way to make this storm produce MORE snow, you need to add some Jet Stream energy and that’s also what is expected to occur. Jet Stream energy is great for allowing more lift to occur and thus creating more bigger snowfall totals.
As it stands, it is possible that we experience one of the top 5 snowstorms in Denver’s history this weekend and one of the top March snowstorms on record as well.
To break it down, we need 16.9″ to make it on the list of biggest March storms and we need 23″ of snow to make it on the list of biggest snowstorms ever.
An added perk to mention is that when snow melts, it becomes water. The amount of liquid that this storm will deliver will be upwards of 2 inches or more in some areas. The last time Denver got more than 1.00″ of liquid in the rain guage was back in July of 2019. Needless to say, this moisture should help tremendously with the ongoing drought across the region. Let’s at least hope for that!
We’ve seena. slight improvement in drought since the last snowstorm that dumped a foot of snow in the Denver metro but we still have a lot of work to do. This storm could prove to be extremely beneficial for some areas.
Okay. So, How Much Snow?
Forecast totals can and will change between now and the event although details are now becoming more clear. The snow forecast begins Friday night in the Foothills and Saturday morning for the I-25 corridor and will continue through Monday morning so this is a full on weekend event. Again, travel is not advised this weekend at all. If you can avoid it, please do.
There are several factors that should be watched between now and this weekend. The possibility of this storm tracking further north than what is currently forecast to, is there. The EURO has been trying to inch this storm northward but a few large-scale weather mechanisms may prevent that from happening too much more. This could really limit snow totals across the areas. We also have to watch the speed of this storm, if it moves faster then we will see less snow. Another aspect to watch is how much warm air will be around. It’s supposed to be a warmer snow already (temps will hover near freezing Saturday and Sunday afternoon. If too much warm air moves in, we could have more rain initially than snow and that would limit totals. This is a bigger concern for the Eastern PLains rather than DEnver and the Foothills. Finally, the severe storms that are forecast this weekend from the same system, may use up too much energy which would steal some from us and in turn, would reduce our snow totals. These are all possibilities to stay aware of.
This forecast is likely to change so don’t take these numbers as a final forecast. They will be fine-tuned as we get closer to Saturday.
Ft. Collins: 18-24″
Estes Park: 18-24″
DT Denver: 18-24″
Colorado Springs: 12-18″
What is impressive here is the amount of snow on the low-end of the chart. It takes just 6″ of snow in 12 hours for Denver to be under a Winter Storm Warning. Most areas will definitely get more than that. Roads will be difficult to drive on if not simply impossible. This is going to be a big Colorado snowstorm and it’s going to last a couple of days. Prepare for it.
Sunday may be the worst day of the weekend due to windy conditions expected to develop. There could be blizzard conditions at times in and around Denver. Overall, this is a developing storm and the details will change but based on the way it’s looking, it’s a good bet to prepare for a lot of snow this weekend. Check back with this article as it will be updated daily ahead of the storm.