Storm pounds Colorado, Aspen
December 26, 2008
ASPEN ” A strong storm pounded the Colorado mountains Thursday night, depositing 17 inches of new snow at Aspen Highlands, escalating avalanche danger and closing Highway 133 over McClure Pass, south of Carbondale.
Forecasters are warning of hazardous traveling in Colorado’s mountains on Friday ” the result of continuing snowfall and wind-whipped, drifting snow. State transportation officials are recommending drivers pack winter survival kits.
In the Aspen area, a winter storm warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. Friday, though heavy overnight snow had tapered off at mid-morning.
While Highlands was the big winner locally, reporting 17 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours, Snowmass had 10 inches of fresh stuff early Friday morning. Aspen Mountain picked up 8 inches and Buttermilk had 7 inches.
A slice of southern Colorado boasted the morning’s biggest powder dumps. Silverton Mountain reported a mind-boggling 40 inches of new snow, while Wolf Creek collected 2 feet of freshies. Durango Mountain resort picked up 18 inches and was reporting more than 3 feet of new snow since Wednesday.
Avalanche danger remains high on all aspects and at all elevations in the Aspen area and around much of western Colorado, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which has issued an avalanche warning for the Aspen zone, in effect through 6 p.m. Friday.
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The combination of heavy snowfall and wind will make natural and human-triggered avalanches likely on Friday in the backcountry surrounding Aspen, and the potential for large, destructive slides exists, according to the CAIC. Backcountry travelers should use extreme caution and avoid all steep slopes and runout areas of avalanche paths, the center advised.
Go to http://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php for the full report.
According to the National Weather Service, another 4 to 5 inches of snow are possible in Aspen on Friday, with areas of blowing snow and wind gusts of up to 40 mph. Snow is likely again Friday night after midnight, with 2 to 4 inches of accumulation and wind-chill readings of 13 to 23 below.
Saturday’s forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of snow and highs of 5 to 15, with wind-chill readings of 16 to 26 below in the morning, according to the weather service.
On Sunday, partly sunny skies with a 30 percent chance of snow are forecast. Highs should reach the 20s, but with wind-chill readings of 2 to 12 below in the morning, the weather service said.
Travel around the state will be dicey on Friday, according to forecasters. Adverse conditions forced the closure of Highway 133 over McClure Pass, and several passes in southwest Colorado are closed, cutting off access to some of the ski areas that collected the most bountiful snowfall. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass between Silverton and Ouray, and Highway 160 over Wolf Creek Pass were both listed as closed on Friday morning.
On Interstate 70, chain laws were in effect for commercial vehicles Friday morning at Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Go to http://www.cotrip.org for updated, statewide road conditions.
(for the past 24 hours, as of early Friday)
Arapaho Basin ” 1 inch
Beaver Creek ” 6 inches
Breckenridge ” 1 inch
Copper Mountain ” 3 inches
Crested Butte ” 13 inches
Durango ” 18 inches
Keystone ” 0 inches
Loveland ” .5 inches
Powderhorn ” 6 inches
Silverton Mountain ” 40 inches
Steamboat ” 3 inches
Sunlight ” 15 inches
Telluride ” 7 inches
Vail ” 5 inches
Winter Park ” 2.50 inches
Wolf Creek ” 24 inches