Spring begins with a storm in southern Colorado


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Spring storms in Colorado can be very complex because of our state’s varied terrain.

Storms aren’t as cold as they are in January or February, and storms often undergo an intensification as they move off of the mountains and onto the plains.

An area of energy rounding the base of a big dip in the jetstream over the west coast will move toward Colorado today. Early Thursday it will move off of the mountains, and as that happens, it will strengthen and develop a circulation, stacking vertically from the surface into the mid-levels of the atmosphere somewhere over eastern Colorado.

The best estimate of the track of the heart of the storm is to move from Durango around midnight, to near Colorado Springs around 6 a.m., to near Burlington by noon on Thursday.

This path would bring the heaviest snow to the eastern San Juan mountains tonight to the Pikes Peak region northward on Thursday. That said, elevation is also going to play a role in who gets snow and who gets a cold rain.

Any shift in the path, and an earlier development of the main circulation, would change the potential for snow. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and should have a better idea of any possible shifts in track as late Wednesday as the storm moves fully onshore, we’ll get several weather balloons up into it that will provide a better three-dimensional picture of the storm. This often leads to better forecasts from computer models as we have better information about the storm.

As of mid-morning Wednesday, there is quite a bit of “spread” among computer guidance regarding snow potential in central Colorado Springs.

As you can see below, the differing computer prognostications put snow anywhere from zero to near a foot! These differences are due to how the terrain is represented in the different computer simulations, the resolution of the data points, the thermal structure of the storm, the path of the center of the storm and the evolution of the circulation. It is very complex!

Terrain is going to play an important role. The higher you are, the more snow you’ll get in the Pikes Peak region, regardless of the ultimate path.

The map below gives what I’ve determined to be the most likely scenario regarding snow with the incoming storm.

FOX21 Storm Team meteorologist Emily Roehler will update this graphic as needed with new information coming in through the evening on Wednesday.

The snow will come in two waves for the Pikes Peak region. The first will be with the center of the storm passing overhead on Thursday morning, between about 6 a.m. and noon. We then may get a break of an hour or two before snow redevelops in the afternoon. This snow would be more focused over the spine of the Palmer Divide and the northern slopes of Pikes Peak. This second round of snow will blow around easier than the wet and sloppy snow of the morning.

Thursday will be a windy day as the storm moves across the state and moves into the plains. Some areas will see gusts above 30 mph. The wind will transition from the southwest ahead of the circulation to out of the north on the backside of the circulation as a cold front moves south across the area. Expect temperatures to fall during the afternoon and produce a raw day for areas that aren’t getting any snow.

The eastern plains south of the Palmer Divide don’t appear likely to see anything other than a quick dusting on the grass, unless the storm takes a path farther to the south than what we’re currently expecting.

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