A sunny new year? | AspenTimes.com

A sunny new year?

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The new year begins with mostly sunny days warming up through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

But not before weekend snow, avalanche danger, wind and poor visibility closed Interstate 70 between Vail and Floyd Hill and other highways throughout Sunday night, making holiday driving pretty much impossible for thousands of travelers that were stranded at shelters Sunday night.

Crews reopened the westbound lanes of I-70 at 3:20 p.m. Monday, and the eastbound lanes were opened later in the day.

On Monday afternoon, http://www.cotrip.org reported “zero visibility” and winds up to 72 mph near the Floyd Hill exit ” about 25 miles west of Denver.

During the weekend, Sunlight Mountain Resort reported 5 inches of snow, Snowmass reported 7 inches and Vail reported 13 inches. A weather service monitoring site on the Continental Divide north of the Steamboat Springs ski area picked up more than 40 inches of snow over the weekend, according to Jim Pringle, a meteorologist for the service. The upper Colorado River drainage basin has about 108 percent of the normal water content in its snowpack for this time of year.

Another snowy weekend is likely after a high-pressure system, expected to bring dry and stable conditions until Thursday, moves on.

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“It’s looking more and more favorable for a significant snowfall event this weekend,” Pringle said. “Right now, from everything I’m seeing, there’s potential for getting at least as much snow as this past weekend storm for most of western Colorado.”

The upcoming storm is probably good for five to 10 inches of snow in most of Colorado’s mountain regions, Pringle said.

After a dry November and wet December, a drying trend with less precipitation is predicted to begin in the latter part of January. Southern Colorado should get less than normal amounts of precipitation while northern Colorado is expected to get normal amounts of precipitation throughout the rest of the winter, in part due to the current period of moderate La Nina.

During La Nina, Pacific Ocean surface temperatures are generally colder, causing drier weather in the Midwest.

“We’re going to be transitioning from a wetter-than-normal pattern to something that’s either near normal in the northern part of state or drier than normal in the southern part of the state,” Pringle said.

Above-average temperatures are also expected throughout the winter after weather patterns transition into the drier period. In the meantime, before the transition occurs, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the results of the heavy December snowfall.

“There’s not a lot of people complaining except for the people who have to travel in this,” Pringle said. “For a moderate La Nina year, the snow we’ve gotten has been a bonus.”