The storm that hit Colorado and other western states Monday night is nothing by comparison to what’s coming later this week, weather forecasters said.
That winter storm that left anywhere from a trace of snow in the valleys to several feet in the high country is only a precursor to a second “bombogenesis” storm that’s expected to hit the Pacific coast tonight, according to the National Weather Service.
As that storm, which is to begin with hurricane-force winds on the West Coast, is to make its way to eastern Utah and western Colorado by Thanksgiving Day, said Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the service's Grand Junction office.
“As we get towards Thursday evening, we’ll see moderate to heavy snow come in,” he said. “We’ll get this ridge that will come through tomorrow, which helps us get up to 42 (degrees), but Friday’s cold front will move through, so we will drop in temperatures fairly significantly, with highs around freezing for the weekend.”
Though it is hard to know how it will impact the Grand Valley, it’s that storm that is expected to bring even more snow to the region starting on Thursday and into Saturday, he said.
All of that, of course, will impact travelers trying to get to, and return from, their Thanksgiving Day celebrations.
AAA Colorado, for example, is calling it a “perfect storm,” with a foot of snow or more in the mountains coupled with nearly a million Thanksgiving travelers in the state.
Nationally, AAA is predicting that this year could be the second highest Thanksgiving travel volume since it began tracking such things in 2000, saying that most of the more than 55 million travelers will be doing so on the ground.
But if the level of accidents that occurred overnight are any indication, some of those travelers may have a hard time getting to their destinations.
Early this morning, the Colorado State Patrol reported a number of serious accidents, including at least one fatal wreck near Eagle.
There, westbound Interstate 70 had to be closed this morning because of an accident that required hazmat crews to help clean it up. The highway isn’t expected to reopen until later this afternoon.
Meanwhile, a wreck on I-70 near Genesee caused eastbound lanes to be closed at about 3 a.m. this morning because one driver attempted to get around a group of snowplows, prompting the CSP Golden office to issue this somewhat snarky tweet:
“Alright, someone was not paying attention to the earlier plow safety lessons! Eastbound 70 is close at Genesse due to a driver crashing into a formation of plows. No injury’s but we need to get vehicles pulled apart and moved.”
The highway was opened about a hour later.
Just before that tweet came out, that same CSP division posted this equally sarcastic tweet:
“With the earlier tweet about not weaving between plow trucks, we didn’t think it necessary to say don’t tailgate them either. Well, we were wrong … please don’t tailgate the plow trucks.”
The storm has already prompted the Colorado Department of Transportation to announce that the state’s traction law is in effect on some state highways. That law doesn’t just apply to commercial vehicles, but all vehicles, the department says.
Meanwhile here in the Grand Valley, Sanders said there’s a 50% chance that the two storms coming through will leave an inversion, meaning that temperatures could remain at or near freezing for several days.
Sanders said it’s possible that much of the snow will melt in the valley if temperature reach into the 40s tomorrow, but that may not happen for the whole valley. While the west end of the valley saw only a trace of snow, it got up to 6 inches at the Grand Junction Regional Airport and parts of Palisade, he said.
“Parts of Fruita and the Monument and the Redlands area only had maybe a half inch or nothing, and the Grand Junction airport all the way to Palisade got three to six (inches),” Sanders said. “We were expecting there would be some high numbers like that, but we didn’t know where or how high it was actually going to go. There was quite a gradient, which is hard to forecast across such a small area.”
Sanders said the Grand Mesa saw as much as 8 1/2 inches, while other areas, such as De Beque and Rifle, got 2 to 3 inches. Moab, he said, received 5 inches, and Telluride got up to a foot.