Frigid temps hanging around
Old Man Winter walloped the Grand Valley with record-breaking snowfall Wednesday before moving across the plains to wreak more havoc.
More snow fell in downtown Grand Junction than in Fruita, but the Redlands saw the greatest accumulation with 8.5 inches as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, said Travis Booth, a National Weather Service forecaster.
Snow on the ground and persistent cold temperatures increased the likelihood of a temperature inversion, prompting Mesa County to issue a no-burn order, which remains in effect through 3 p.m. Friday.
With the sun at a low angle to the ground and snow in drifts, temperatures are expected to grow colder each day. Current conditions could last several weeks, Booth said.
“It’s really hard to get out of that without a strong weather system pushing through and generating some winds to push that air out,” Booth said. “It does look, at least for the next seven days, that what you see is what you get.”
As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, more than six inches of snow carrying about a half-inch of moisture accumulated in Grand Junction, nearly doubling the previous records for the day, the National Weather Service said.
“This was a significant event,” Booth said. “The Grand Valley averages about 20 inches of snowfall for an entire winter season, so if you put today’s event in perspective, 6.5 inches is certainly more than a quarter of that.”
PLOWS PLAYING CATCH-UP
Although snowplow crews started at midnight Tuesday, snow fell faster than workers could keep up with, said Darren Starr, manager of streets, solid waste and stormwater for Grand Junction.
Starr said he spent much of Wednesday morning fielding complaints about unplowed streets. The city operates seven snowplows with crews working round the clock. Some residents were upset that roads were not cleared by 7 a.m.
“(If) you plowed this street, by the time you got back it looked like it hadn’t been done,” Starr said. “Yes we did plow it, but we just couldn’t keep up with it.”
By Wednesday afternoon, crews were still clearing top priority roads, but all the main routes were cleared “pretty good,” he said.
Starr said crews were working Wednesday night to scrape as much ice off the streets as possible to prevent slick roads today. If ice is on the roads and temperatures are below 15 degrees, no amount of de-icer will melt it.
He asked the public to be patient and give snowplow crews time and space to clear roads.
SCHOOLS, SERVICES AFFECTED
City of Grand Junction and Mesa County offices, with the exception of the Clifton department of motor vehicles office, remained open Wednesday. City trash service went on as usual, although trash trucks may have to return to some homes today if workers were unable to reach them, officials said.
Mesa County Valley School District 51 and many local private and charter schools were closed Wednesday, as well as Garfield School District Re-2 in Rifle, Garfield County School District 16 in Parachute, and De Beque School District 49-JT.
All District 51 schools will be open on a normal schedule today, the district’s website said.
Colorado Mesa University, which begins finals week Monday, remained open Wednesday.
Montrose and Olathe schools remained open Wednesday but will be closed today due to freezing temperatures and poor road conditions, school officials said in a news release.
OFFICIAL RECORDS BROKEN
Officially, 5.9 inches of snow accumulated in Grand Junction Wednesday, breaking the old record of 3.7 inches set in 1972.
“We had a general range here in the Grand Valley of about 5.5 to 8.5 inches. In the downtown area, it was generally 6 to 7 inches with higher amounts towards the Redlands of 8.5 inches,” forecaster Booth said. “If we go to the west side of valley — for Fruita, Mack out that direction — there was six inches. That’s a pretty close spread considering the size of the valley.”
Grand Junction Regional Airport saw 6.5 inches of snow and 0.69 inches of moisture, the National Weather Service said.
The system also broke a 72-year-old record for precipitation: The 0.54 inches that fell broke the record of 0.35 inches set in 1941.
“The first part of the event, we had a bit of rain in the evening,” Booth said. “Then it turned over to snow. Probably the first several hours of snowfall were fairly wet. Then as we got cold air moving in during the early-morning hours, it turned to a bit of a drier snow. There’s probably a transition there so that bottom layer had more water in it.”
Most residents who strained to shovel snow Wednesday could attest to its moisture content.
MORE SNOW POSSIBLE
Snow flurries were possible today, especially in the mountains, but were expected to taper off Friday, Booth said.
Temperatures will remain consistent and in the single-digits, teens and low 20s for the next seven days, he said.
“Another system is coming through later in the day Saturday through the first part of Sunday,” Booth said. “That system is moisture-starved compared to the one we just had, but an inch or two in the valley and more in the mountains is certainly within the realm of probability.”