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Winter Storm Warning issued for Denver as potential for heavy snowfall increases

The northeastern Colorado weather outlook for Thursday, January 30, 2014.
The northeastern Colorado weather outlook for Thursday, January 30, 2014.
Denver Weather Examiner

Mother Nature is already delivering a wintry wallop to Colorado’s mountains and now appears set to bring the show further to the east. Heavy snowfall is expected in the Denver area later Thursday and a Winter Storm Warning has been issued.

At this time snow continues in the high country where a warning has been in place since yesterday. Coupled with strong winds gusting to 60 mph, travel conditions will continue to deteriorate through the day. Additional accumulations of 7 to 14 inches at higher elevations and 4 to 7 inches in the valleys will be possible by late tonight.

For the Denver metro area the situation is more complicated and has a greater range of possibilities. However given the increased chance for heavy snowfall, caution is warranted.

Temperatures today will actually be relatively mild and Denver is expected to see a high near 50 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. There may even be a stray rain shower during the daytime.

The picture changes considerably this afternoon as the first in a series of cold fronts pushes through.

The National Weather Service upgraded the watch for the Colorado Front Range and northeastern plains including Denver to a Winter Storm Warning. In effect from 5:00 p.m. this afternoon to 6:00 a.m. Friday morning, snow and blowing snow are likely to bring the Mile High City’s most significant snowfall of the season.

Total overnight snowfall accumulations for Denver may be in the 5 to 10 inch range with locally higher amounts possible. Generally the higher amounts are expected north, lower amounts south. The heavy snow coupled with gusty winds will decrease visibility, lead to drifting and make travel difficult.

Needless to say, tomorrow morning’s commute is likely to be a rough one.

Further to the south, a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for the Palmer Divide including Castle Rock. 3 to 6 inches total accumulation will be possible.

The forecast snowfall amounts for the Front Range are not a slam dunk and much could change the ultimate outcome.

Upslope flow will be needed for the heavier snowfall amounts and temperatures need to drop as predicted. Without those two components, snow could fail to materialize in the amounts expected.

At this time NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center is giving the Denver area greater than an 80% chance of seeing snowfall amounts ≥ 4 inches between now and Saturday morning. They give a 60% chance of receiving ≥ 8 inches and a 20% chance of ≥ 12 inches.

Odds are we will see our biggest snowfall of the season thus far. It just isn’t a sure thing yet.

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From the National Weather Service:

Winter Storm Warning

... Winter Storm Warning in effect from 5 PM this afternoon to 6 am MST Friday...

The National Weather Service in Denver has issued a Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow... which is in effect from 5 PM this afternoon to 6 am MST Friday. The Winter Storm Watch is no longer in effect.

* Timing... snow... heavy at times... will develop early this evening and continue through early Friday morning.

* Snow accumulations... total snowfall amounts will range from 5 to 10 inches... with locally up to a foot in some locations

* Wind/visibility... heavy snow may cause visibility to fall to a quarter mile at times.

* Impacts... hazardous winter driving conditions can be expected to develop this evening due to icy and snowpacked roads and poor visibilities. Roads will remain snowpacked and icy through Friday morning.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous. Only travel in an emergency. If you must travel... keep an extra flashlight...food... and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.