Snow makes early entrance in valley

Students from the Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, dressed up with no place to go, practice the “last foot down” game in the parking lot after finding the Lunch Loop trails were too muddy to ride. The students were on the last day of a five-day mountain biking trip to the area. They had hoped the trails dried out enough Friday to take one more ride.

Live camera views of snow blanketing the deck and piling up on the railings at Powderhorn Mountain Resort offered a stark contrast to the dry decks and verdant slopes of last week.

Down in the Grand Valley, green thumbs were busy combing through gardens, harvesting the warm weather fruits and veggies before an expected cold snap Friday night and tonight.

It wasn’t much, but the storm that pushed across western Colorado Thursday night left enough of a dusting of snow in Grand Junction to set a record.

Up in the higher elevations, far more than a skift of snow fell.

The National Weather Service reported that 0.1 inches of snow fell at Grand Junction Regional Airport Thursday night, marking the first time measurable snow fell on that date since the National Weather Service began keeping records in 1893. It also was the second-earliest measurable snowfall in the city, coming in behind Sept. 18, 1965, when 3.1 inches fell.

Winter weather’s abrupt appearance doesn’t mean that gardeners across the valley should pull up their bounty, said Susan Rose, horticulture technician at the Colorado State University Extension Office at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. In fact, warmer weather is expected to return to the valley next week, with daytime highs of about 70 degrees and nighttime lows in the mid-40s.

It’s not the freezing temperatures that doom plants, it’s the duration of the freeze, Rose said.

“People just can put a sheet or a lightweight blanket out over their garden,” she said. “It’s best if it doesn’t actually touch the plants. They’re mostly probably going to make it.”

Some plants, like basil, won’t tolerate even the slightest freeze, Rose said. Tomato plants, however, probably will be OK if gardeners cover them up, she said.

Cooler season vegetables including lettuce, peas, spinach and cauliflower, “will be just fine,” Rose added.

Back-to-back record lows also were set Thursday night. The temperature dropped to 31 degrees Thursday night and early Friday morning, beating the previous records of 32 degrees set in 1902 and 1908, respectively, according to the Weather Service.

Several inches of snow fell on Grand Mesa and in several other areas of the mountains and higher elevations of the Western Slope. Snow totals reported to the Weather Service by Friday morning included 12.5 inches four miles south of Collbran, 11 inches six miles south of Mesa, 9 inches at Powderhorn, 3 inches in Carbondale, 2 inches in Glenwood Springs and 2 to 3 inches on Glade Park.

The valley was under a freeze warning through 9 a.m. today, with forecasters calling for overnight lows to dip to between 26 and 32 degrees. Temperatures are expected to be above   freezing tonight, with a low of about 35.


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