Bomb cyclone and atmospheric river eye Colorado


An approaching storm that has made numerous headlines with wind and rain across parts of the western United States will move across Colorado early this week. The “bomb” cyclone, called such due to rapid intensification over the weekend is spinning across the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington early Monday. Farther south a persistent fetch of tropical moisture, called an atmospheric river, has been pummeling parts of California with rain. Recent wildfire burn scars have produced mudslides as the storm slammed in Sunday.

According to news reports over 160,000 homes and businesses in California, more than 170,000 in Washington, and over 28,000 in Oregon were left without power at different points Sunday due to the strong wind bringing down power lines. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in the greater Seattle area.

Some parts of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range may get more than 6 feet of snow before the storm moves out.

Local impacts from the approaching storm on Monday include periods of high clouds, warm temperatures and breezy conditions over the eastern plains. By the afternoon, wind gusts over the mountains could exceed 40 m.p.h. in a few spots over the ridge tops and eastern slopes.

Wind will remain strong at times overnight in the mountain areas and once the sun comes up Tuesday, this strong wind will spread east over the plains. Mountain areas could see some gusts exceed 60 m.p.h. early Tuesday, while parts of the plains could see gusts near 50 m.p.h. at times as a cold front approaches late in the day.

The dry wind out of the southwest will be sinking off of the Rockies, helping to produce low relative humidity. Combined with recent drought conditions and the gusty wind, fire danger will be high on Tuesday, and a Fire Weather Watch is up for Colorado Springs, Pueblo and the eastern plains through the afternoon.

In contrast to the warm and windy fire weather ahead of the front – the San Juan and La Garita ranges in the southwest part of the state will have wind-driven snow that causes headaches for travelers early Tuesday where some areas may end up with nearly a foot of snow.

Snow will shift north into the central mountains through the morning, producing 2″-8″ of snow for ski resorts like Monarch Mountain, Crested Butte and the resorts along Interstate 70. Expect winter conditions if driving west.

While temperatures fall with the arrival of the snow over the mountains, the wind helps us warm up fast over the plains. East of the Interstate we’ll still make the 80s by the early afternoon, but temperatures will start to fall from west to east after lunch.

As the cold front arrives late in the day and evening, the wind will switch direction out of the north or northwest depending where you are. It will continue to be very windy behind the cold front through the night into the early morning hours of Wednesday.

While snow in the high country is a guarantee, wind is the main story locally. However, the late afternoon and evening will bring a few showers with the arrival of the colder air. The maps below do not indicate snow that is expected, but the potential for a little bit of light snow to accumulate over the Palmer Divide and Pikes Peak, and the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Behind the front we’ll stay windy and cooler on Wednesday. Get the details through the rest of the week in our extended forecast.

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