May snowstorm to drop feet of snow, wreak havoc on travel this weekend

Well, after a snowy season like the one we just endured… or are enduring… it’s not shocking that we’re talking about metro Denver and the surrounding areas in the second half of May.

This late-season storm will produce heavy, wet snow and sub-freezing temperatures both of which could cause major issues around the region.

We have first seen this earlier in the week when the storm appears to have been eclipsed by the fact that we have seen above snow and mid-March than we can count since April.

Regardless of the fact that metro Denver and surrounding areas, which is the best news for our continuing drought concerns.

Let’s dive in.

A large storm will move through the northern and central Rockies between now and this weekend. That storm is the culprit for the late-season snow we’re expecting.

You’ll first notice through Thursday that we’re going to have above-normal temperatures with windy conditions. High fire danger will precede this snow event as the storm nears.

Temperatures in Denver should approach 90 degrees Thursday afternoon. The record for this date is 92 degrees. Keep this in mind as high fire danger is nothing to mess around with, as we’ve come to know.

As the system nears, it will drop a strong front across the area. This will push through Thursday night, dropping temperatures into the low 40s, possibly even the upper 30s, for the Denver area by Friday morning. A solid 45-to-50 degree temperature drop!

Behind this cold front, we’re talking about a classic upslope snow event for our area. By Friday morning, snow will be falling for those above 7,000 feet in elevation. For the lower elevations of the Interstate 25 corridor, a cold rain will cover the area during the morning with widespread precipitation falling from Fort Collins to Castle Rock by noon.

Everyone will be seeing snow by Friday afternoon into the early evening. Those above 6,500 to 7,000 feet will be seeing snow for the duration of Friday and overnight into Saturday morning. Denver and the lower elevations should have snow falling from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning.

Some weather models are showing that snow will continue through much of the day Saturday before tapering off Saturday night. This leads to a very cold Saturday ahead with temperatures in the 20s and 30s region-wide.

Accompanying this upslope flow will be jet stream enhancement. The jet stream is likely to park itself over Colorado for the duration of this event and that any snow that is formed, leading to high snowfall rates across the mountains, foothills and adjacent plains.

Also, it is late May and the atmosphere is much more energetic than it is during the core winter months. We could be looking at some convective snow as the atmosphere will be pretty unstable. Usually, we talk about instability and convection with thunderstorms, but this is around, we’re talking about further improvement of snowfall rates.

Also, this means that thundersnow could be a possibility towards the beginning of this event.

This will be a cold storm and temperatures both Saturday and Sunday morning are expected to dip into the 20s around Denver with higher elevations getting colder than that. This will impact any newly planted plants and irrigation systems that have been turned on for the season. Take the necessary precautions if sub-freezing temperatures are something that may impact you.

Another factor that is most of our trees is leafed. The snow that gets stuck easily – like trees. Tree damage is going to be a major concern above 6,500 feet. It only takes 3 to 4 inches of snow to cause issues with trees on leaves.

Even in Denver, if the higher-end amount of snow verifies, we could be looking at tree damage as possible across the metro area as well.

Snow totals

Snow totals will vary greatly based on elevation, but here’s what is expected to accumulate from Friday to Saturday.

Forecast Snow Totals by the NWS

Areas from Rocky Mountain National Park to Bailey can expect to accumulate. This would cause major issues on the roads and for trees.

Along the I-25 corridor, we’re looking at 3 to 6 inches of snow from Fort Collins to Denver to Colorado Springs. Of course, the Palmer Divide near Castle Rock and Monument is expected to get at least a foot of snow with as much as a foot-and-a-half falling. This will cause major issues on the roads and for trees in this area as well.

Denver is there. The storm dynamics won’t change much for higher elevations, but it would have a pretty big impact on the lower elevations.

Here’s a look at what a storm can do and colder and stronger.

High-End Snow Forecast
High-End Snow Forecast

Again, in the mountains, the foothills and the Palmer Divide, a colder storm will keep the I-25 corridor significantly changed.

We could be looking at a substantial snowstorm from Denver to Fort Collins to Boulder with 9 to 15 inches of snow possible. Colorado Springs could also approach double-digit totals given this storm strengthens.

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