Snow, bitter cold on way for New Year’s in Aspen, state
December 30, 2010
DENVER – A storm that brought 2 feet of new snow to southwest Colorado was also bringing snow, wind and bitter cold to the northeast corner of the state Thursday, though Aspen was still awaiting the wintery blast Thursday morning.
The Colorado Department of Transportation had more than 80 snowplows clearing roads Thursday morning from Fort Collins to Boulder to Sterling in northeast Colorado.
In southwest Colorado, Wolf Creek Ski Area was reporting 2 feet of new snow in the last 24 hours, Silverton Mountain reported 22 inches and Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort reported 20 inches.
Wolf Creek Ski Area snow reporter Jamie Heirtzler lives in Pagosa Springs, about a half hour’s drive from the ski area, and said, “It was snowing pretty hard on the way up to the mountain. It was pretty much a whiteout.”
He said crews were plowing the snow-covered roads, “but it was tough to keep up with.”
By comparison, Snowmass reported 4 inches over the past 24 hours on Thursday morning, and Aspen Highlands picked up 3 inches. Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk reported an inch of new snow, though the area is under a winter storm warning through Friday at 6 p.m. Locally, some slopes could see a foot or 2 of new snow, according to the National Weather Service. An avalanche watch is also in effect.
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Thursday’s forecast for Aspen calls for 3 to 5 inches of snow, highs near 27 and wind gusts of up to 40 mph. With the approaching storm, temperatures are expected to plummet; the weather service is calling for a low of 3 degrees Thursday night and a wind chill of minus 10. Another 3 to 5 inches overnight are possible.
Friday’s forecast calls for snow, with accumulations of 1 to 3 inches, a high near 9 and northwest wind gusts of up to 35 mph. Cold temperatures will continue through Saturday, according to the weather service. A sunny day in Aspen, with a high near 17, is forecast on Sunday.
Aspen’s airport was operating as usual Thursday morning, though some flights out of Denver were delayed.
Some airlines already were rebooking people who had tickets for trips passing through Denver and Colorado mountain towns Thursday and Friday.
The National Weather Service said snow could fall at a rate close to an inch an hour starting Thursday evening in the Denver area, which has largely missed out on the snow that has been hitting Colorado’s mountains this month.
In northeast Colorado, forecasters warned of wind chill readings near 20 below zero, with 6 to 10 inches of snow.
It’s been a dry season since farmers planted winter wheat in the fall, and Haxtun wheat farmer Dan Anderson said the snow may be more dry than wet. Still, he said it should at least help insulate crops from getting killed by cold temperatures.
It’s still too early to say how the harvest will turn out in July.
“My grandpa used to say wheat has nine lives, and you have to kill it eight times before you finally get it in the bin,” said Anderson, president of the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee. “Spring time will really dictate what we’re going to end up with.”
As of Thursday morning, the statewide snowpack was 134 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Upper Rio Grande basin was the only one in the state that was below average, at 98 percent.
Forecasters also were expecting blizzard conditions across the border in southeastern Wyoming, with visibility reduced to less than a quarter mile at times.