First big winter storm frosts western Colorado

The first significant winter storm of the season swept through most of western Colorado Monday, particularly in Colorado’s high country.

The National Weather Service forecast up to 16 inches of snow for portions of the state by noon today.

The Telluride ski area reported Monday afternoon that in the past 24 hours it has recorded 18 inches of snow at mid-mountain.

Telluride isn’t open yet for the ski season, but two state ski areas took advantage of the first significant snowfall of the late fall.

Arapahoe Basin opened Monday. Loveland Ski Area opened Sunday.

According to the Associated Press, many skiers had arrived Monday before Loveland Pass closed because of the storm.

In addition to Loveland Pass, other roads that closed because of significant snowfall and hazardous driving conditions included Independence Pass on Colorado Highway 82 on an 18-mile stretch between Aspen and Twin Lakes.

The Colorado Department of Transportation made the decision to temporarily close Independence Pass at 9 a.m. Monday. The pass is scheduled to close for the season Sunday, Nov. 7, so CDOT did not know Monday whether the road would reopen before that time.

Many of Colorado’s highways at higher elevations were affected by Monday’s storm, which included heavy rain at lower elevations and significant snowfall at higher elevations. Strong winds helped reduce visibility in parts of the state to a mile or less because of blowing snow.

Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the winter storm likely will linger in the central and northern mountain regions, including Vail and Steamboat Springs, into Wednesday. Warmer weather is forecast to move into the area Thursday and Friday but another wave of winter weather should move into western Colorado by the weekend, Aleksa added.

Regionally, the Grand Valley was in a freeze warning Monday night. Aleksa compiled regional storm precipitation totals after the bulk of Monday’s storm front moved through. Near Powderhorn Ski Area, at least four inches of snow was recorded. More than nine inches fell in Ouray. The Grand Junction area received .39 inches of rain.

The National Weather Service implored people, particularly hunters, to be prepared for all weather conditions.

In fact, one multi-agency search for three missing hunters is under way in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in Garfield County. At 5 a.m., 16 personnel with Mesa County Search and Rescue joined up with Garfield County Search and Rescue to head into the Coffee Pot area north of Interstate 70 between Gypsum and New Castle to try to find the missing hunters.

The search was suspended at 6:30 p.m. Monday because of inclement weather. It was set to resume today with snowmobiles, said Tanny McGinnis, spokeswoman for Garfield County Sheriff’s Department said.


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