COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A strong storm is set to barrel into Colorado for the start of the weekend, with heavy snow and wind for the continental divide and ski resorts, and strong downslope wind for the eastern slopes and plains.
While a few areas west of Interstate 25 will see some noticeable gusts on Friday afternoon, it’s really in the late evening hours that the wind starts to pick up with the jet nosing into Colorado from the northwest. At that time, high wind watches from the National Weather Service activate and last through Saturday.
The strongest gusts are likely to be found over ridge-tops, major passes, and the eastern slopes along the Front Range. Current indications are that some speeds will top out between 70 and 90 mph. The map below for 10 a.m. Saturday shows that many areas will be very windy with the strongest gusts confined to relatively small areas that will tend to move around over time. The Rampart Range and eastern slopes of Pikes Peak will likely see some gusts over 60 mph early Saturday.
Looking at individual locations shows there will be periods where the wind decreases some, but still remains noticeable. The strongest gusts likely occur within a couple hours of midnight and then kick up again as the morning wears on.
The eastern slopes of the Wet mountains and Sangre de Cristo range should also see some of the stronger gusts in southern Colorado as the weekend begins.
Given the orientation of the flow coming in from the northwest, most of southern Colorado is likely to stay dry with the approaching storm. Main snow accumulations will be found along and west of the Continental Divide, favoring ski resort areas and major mountain passes. As a generality, six to ten inches of snow with more in favored locations is expected by noon on Saturday. With the strong wind expected, travel conditions will deteriorate rapidly overnight and stay difficult through at least the first part of Saturday with blowing and drifting snow.
Monarch Mountain is scheduled to open Friday, November 20, but a good helping of snow this weekend could lead the butterfly to open early. We’ll see if six to nine inches can bring enough to get the lifts turning early next week.
It’s possible the higher peaks of the northern Sangre de Cristo range picks up a few inches of snow early Saturday.
It’s also possible the higher terrain of the Pikes Peak region gets a brief opportunity for a few showers early Saturday morning as the cold front moves out of the mountains. This is most likely between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m., but shouldn’t provide anything significant other than a brief reduction in visibility.
Impacts from the wind in southern Colorado may include tree damage, downed power lines and hazardous travel for high profile vehicles, especially traveling north and south in the crosswind. There may also be blowing dust over the eastern plains given continued drought conditions.