COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo — The stretch of warmer days we’ve had in Colorado is coming to an end and will be replaced by snow. A strong cold front moving across the Rocky Mountains will bring the first taste of winter Wednesday night into Thursday. Parts of the Pikes Peak Region could even start Thursday with flakes falling.
Don’t be fooled by the warm Wednesday afternoon, winter is coming just behind the setting sun! Temperatures will start their plummet to below freezing for southern Colorado overnight. Snow will lag the front but by Thursday morning’s commute, roads will be wet in some areas, with light snow falling in others. Travel conditions could be difficult north of the Palmer Divide heading into Denver, as well as along mountains areas.
Frigid fall temperatures take hold by Thursday morning and afternoon. Daytime highs will stay in the 20s and 30s for most of us, with a few lower 40s in the eastern Plains. Snow will continue to expand across southern Colorado throughout the day.
The Springs are forecast to get up to an inch by Thursday night, with isolated areas seeing up to 3 inches. Northern El Paso and Teller Counties could get a total of 2 to 5 inches of snow accumulation by the end of the day. Central mountains should see 2 to 5 inches, while other mountains areas will see 1 to 2 inches.
Snow will come to an end just as quickly as it started falling. The storm system will move through by late Thursday and allow for a slightly warmer Friday afternoon. Temperatures will drop below freezing again overnight Thursday with widespread hard freezes to start Friday. We’ll be watching for lows early Friday to possibly break records with many spots falling to the teens!
With winter sneaking in early this year, how does this compare to what’s expected for the rest of the season? The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) makes long-range predictions each month. A strong El Niño or La Niña, which refer to Pacific Ocean water temperature patterns, helps forecast winter snowfall. This year, NOAA is predicting neutral conditions. Does this mean an average winter is expected? Not exactly. Since the atmosphere is in a neutral state it can make swings toward El Nino or La Nina conditions.
In general, a neutral set-up like this favors colder weather for the north-central and northeast US, due to a polar jet stream shifted further south. A warmer trend is favored across the southern US, with above-normal precipitation. NOAA stresses that these long-term forecasts can change, especially in terrain as unpredictable as southern Colorado’s.
Meanwhile, The Farmer’s Almanac predicts a frigid and snowy winter season for Colorado. The Almanac says the coldest outbreak should arrive during the final week of January and last through the beginning of February. This is also subject to change since there are many factors involved in long-term forecasting, such as pressure patterns and ocean temperatures, which can change during the season.
Climatology shows that October is no stranger to snow and fall freezes. On average, Colorado Springs sees 2.9 inches of snow by the end of the month according to NOAA Data. Leadville usually picks up on almost 14 inches in October, while Pueblo typically sees just over an inch.
And ironically enough October 10th seems to be a good day to get our first taste of the winter season! Last year’s first fall freeze was on October 10th, with temps in the Springs falling to 32 degrees. This year, we’re a few days ahead of 2018’s first hard freeze, which happened on October 14th. Are you there fall?