Live weather updates as May snow moves into Colorado

Friday, May 20, 2022
author picture Paul Boyer
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Original content created by staff

Live Weather Updates As May Snow Moves Into Colorado

If you're in the Denver area‚ you've probably noticed a few things: temperatures have been chilly and early snowfall is in the forecast. If you're in the foothills‚ you've likely seen a winter storm warning‚ and the foothills could get 3 to 10 inches of snow. In addition‚ the power grid will feel the effects of this storm‚ and avalanche risks are high.

Fort Collins under winter storm warning

With a massive snowstorm headed toward the state this week‚ northern Colorado is under a winter storm warning. The warning applies to the Front Range northward into Wyoming. The AccuWeather meteorologists expect three to six inches of snow in the Denver metro area‚ with a few higher elevations possibly seeing up to a foot of snow. It's possible that the heavy snow could cause widespread power outages. The state's eastern portion is also under a red flag warning. These conditions demonstrate how changeable the spring weather can be in Colorado. Parts of northeastern Colorado are also under a winter storm watch‚ including Fort Collins. This includes Logan County‚ Sedgwick County‚ Phillips County‚ and northeast Weld County. The Fort Collins area should expect two to five inches of snow‚ with a chance of up to ten inches of snow in some areas. It is expected to snow heavily from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.‚ which may affect Wednesday night's commute. The blizzard is expected to continue falling into the overnight hours on Wednesday‚ with a chance of rain and snow. Then‚ the weather will become mostly sunny‚ with a high near 44 degrees. Drivers should be prepared with water and emergency supplies as the snowfall continues overnight. Some schools are canceled on Wednesday‚ as are some community activities. Colorado State University has canceled classes for Wednesday because of the snow. The snow continues through Thursday and continues through the overnight hours‚ extending into the Denver area by evening rush. Snowfall totals may reach a foot or more‚ depending on the extent of snowfall and elevation. By Saturday night‚ the cold push will overspread southern Colorado and cause widespread power outages. The temperatures in Denver will plunge to low to mid-30s. The snow will continue to fall through Friday evening‚ and the morning commute could be very slow.

Denver metro area could get 3 to 10 inches of snow

The forecast for the Denver metro area on Friday and Saturday indicates a chance of up to four to eight inches of snow. The current record for daily snowfall in Denver is three inches‚ which fell on May 20 and 3.8 inches on May 21. However‚ the city could break that record depending on when the snow falls. Denver is currently under a winter storm warning through noon Saturday. The heaviest snowfall is expected Friday afternoon and evening. Powerlines and tree branches will likely break under the weight of the snow. A power outage will be a major issue if it snows heavily. While May is traditionally a dry month in Colorado‚ the city is prone to a few inches of snowfall during this month. The Denver metro area has received between one and three inches of snow in May. The snowfall in May is below average‚ but if it is heavier‚ the city could get up to ten inches of snow. The average last snowfall in Denver is four inches. The total snowfall is expected to vary‚ but the areas of southern Colorado and western New Mexico are expected to see the heaviest snowfall. Castle Rock will see the heaviest snowfall with up to seven inches‚ while Broomfield and Arvada are likely to get between three and five inches. The amounts will depend on how much snow falls and what temperature it reaches. The snow will fall mostly in the mountains‚ but some cities may receive more than a foot or two. Although the snowfall is expected to be less severe in the Denver metro area‚ temperatures will remain below freezing through the morning commute on Thursday. The heaviest snowfall is expected into the evening commute‚ and the snow is likely to continue into the morning hours. After midnight‚ the snow will gradually shift from the northern mountains to the southern tiers of Colorado. The roads will be mostly dry on Thursday‚ but still snowy.

Avalanche danger in foothills

Avalanche danger remains CONSIDERABLE throughout the foothills of Colorado‚ Utah‚ and Wyoming. The La Sals region is still too risky to ski‚ but there's a MODERATE risk for triggering human-triggered avalanches. Most S-facing terrain is LOW in avalanche danger. In addition‚ recent storms have changed the snowpack's depth‚ which plays a key role in avalanche danger. The latest series of storms have dumped between two and four feet of snow on the state's mountains‚ resulting in an increased avalanche risk. The northern mountains in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park‚ as well as the Cameron Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass regions‚ are most affected. Snow levels in Colorado are already higher than normal‚ and it's possible that a future storm will dump even more snow. Avalanches in the foothills of Colorado are often deadly. The state receives much drier air than many other western states. As a result‚ the snowpack in Colorado is more slowly formed and has longer gaps between snowfalls. The result is weaker layers of snow that can slide without warning. In Colorado's largest avalanche in 1884‚ 13 miners lost their lives and nearly buried their entire town at the base of Mount Elbert. Avalanches are dangerous‚ but they don't have to be. With the proper knowledge and gear‚ avalanches are highly reduced. However‚ there are no guarantees that the risk will never be completely eliminated. Learning how to recognize an avalanche and how to mitigate the risks is crucial. Avalanche-prone areas in the state may be too steep for a novice to navigate without a proper avalanche training. Avalanche forecasts can be helpful if you're planning a trip to the mountains. Avalanche information can be found on websites‚ similar to a weather forecast. The sites also contain videos that can teach you how to recognize an avalanche and take precautions if necessary. Those who travel in the mountains should also check the local weather forecast before setting out on a trip.

Impact on power grid

Warming temperatures and increasing demand for electricity are putting stress on the power grid in the West‚ which is already suffering from a lack of hydropower. With less hydropower to tap‚ grid operators have to rely on fossil fuels to keep their systems running. The potential for catastrophic failure is increasing because of climate change‚ with more extreme weather events expected. While the role of human-caused climate change is still being studied‚ scientists say the threat is growing‚ with additional risks for power systems. The United States power grid is a complex network of interconnected systems that span thousands of miles and combine old and new technologies to produce energy. Natural gas is responsible for 38 percent of the country's electricity‚ which is distributed throughout the country. In the United States‚ the grid is made up of high-voltage power lines‚ which send electricity from power plants to homes and businesses. In some areas‚ natural gas provides more than half of the electricity in the country. New solar and wind generation have helped strengthen the grid‚ but the extreme heat wave is still a threat. The report by ERCOT does not factor in the compounding problems during a heat wave. Power plants could fail or become inefficient‚ causing spiking demand and rolling blackouts. In the long run‚ this could affect the state's electric bills. In the short term‚ the worst case scenario is that power plants are down for days and millions of people have no electricity. While the state is working to improve the safety of the grid in Colorado‚ it is still not sufficiently prepared for such extreme weather events. Regardless of the severity of the weather‚ the electricity grid is a crucial component of modern living. As Colorado's climate continues to change‚ extreme weather events and wildfires will become more frequent and more severe. In this case‚ a power outage will be worse than ever before. While extreme cold is a challenge for the electric grid‚ climate change presents a bigger challenge. Heat can lead to huge spikes in electricity demand. Extreme heat also poses a higher risk to critical energy infrastructure. Therefore‚ utilities and communities must find ways to mitigate the risks associated with hot weather. For example‚ by increasing the use of renewable energy‚ Colorado's power grid could become more resilient to physical attacks.