Potentially historic spring snowstorm arrives Thursday night – CBS Denver
DENVER (CBS4) – A cold front originating in Alaska will reach Colorado on Thursday evening. Before the front arrives, it will be very dry, very hot and sometimes very windy, which will cause a critical fire danger.
CBS4’s weather team declared a first day of weather warning on Thursday due to the danger of fire and Friday a first day of weather warning due to cold, rain and snow.
Almost the entire state of Colorado has a red flag warning from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, including the Denver metro area. West winds blowing up to 40 mph with very dry air and unusually warm temperatures will push the fire danger into the critical category. If a fire were to break out on Thursday, it could grow very quickly and be difficult for firefighters to control. Any outdoor activity that could produce a spark should be avoided until Thursday evening.
After the arrival of the cold front, attention will quickly shift from fire danger to truly wintry weather. Snow will spread to the mountains of northern Colorado early Friday morning and rain is expected to develop around Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley by dawn Friday.
The rain will then gradually move south towards the Denver metro area until noon as snow in the mountains as well as the foothills of Boulder and Larimer counties intensify.
The heaviest snow in the high country is expected to be around Rocky Mountain National Park, including Estes Park, Glendevey, Ward, Nederland and Red Feather Lakes. These areas are expected to have 12 to 24 inches of snow with wind gusts of up to 35 mph making travel difficult if not impossible. The I-80 corridor in Wyoming west of Cheyenne also has a winter storm warning for 5 to 12 inches of snowfall.
Elsewhere, there is a winter storm watch, including areas of Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins. Snow totals are far from certain and there will likely be a wide variety of snow amounts depending on when the transition from rain to snow occurs in specific areas and how much snow melts before until the ground is cold enough to support the accumulation.
The forecast schedule for the Urban Corridor is rain at sunrise Friday around Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley. Then the rain will then move south towards the Denver metro area around noon and rain showers are expected in the afternoon and probably in the evening path as well. Eventually the rain will mix with snow and then change to snow from Friday evening to Saturday morning before returning to rain later in the day on Saturday.
The potential exists for at least 4 inches of slush in Denver, which would be the most snow this late in the season since May 29, 1975.
Undoubtedly, the greatest impacts in terms of travel conditions, possible tree damage, and possible power outages will be above 7,000 feet, including in the foothills and along the highest parts of the Palmer Divide. Much more uncertainty exists for low-level snowfall totals and therefore impacts, including the Denver metro area.
In addition to the wet weather, temperatures will be exceptionally cold on Friday and Saturday. High temperatures will only be in the 30s and 40s and overnight lows will be at least a degree or two below zero. The coldest temperatures will occur Sunday morning when the Denver area could experience a hard freeze. Sprinkler systems should be closed this weekend (but do not need to be drained) and sensitive or newly planned plants and flowers should be protected.
Saturday night and Sunday will be much drier overall, but there is still a chance of showers as the choppy weather remains over Colorado well into next week.