Winter Going Out Like a Lion: With Avalanches and A Major March Blizzard

Colorado has experienced eight avalanches so far this winter killing 22 people, and another major blizzard is walloping the state today.  Coloradoan.com reports that, according to Colorado’s  Avalanche Information Center Director Ethan Greene, this year a “perfect storm” of events have created unprecedented avalanche conditions with all the critical factors that result in avalanches coming together at the same time. Consequently, the avalanches that are happening this year are very big and cover a larger area within the state than in the past.  Indeed, more than 100 inches of snow has fallen in the mountains there in the last ten days, on top of a huge base of snow that fell during January and early February.

And more snow is falling today because of yet another monster storm, Winter Storm Ulmer, which could set records for low pressure in the states of Colorado and Kansas.  The Weather Service is characterizing the storm as a “bomb cyclone” the Capital Weather Gang at The Washington Post reported, and it will have “an ‘eye like’ feature similar to a hurricane,” tweeted Ryan Maue, meteorologist for Weathermodels.com.  According to Weather.com:

  • Winter Storm Ulmer should grow stronger as it crosses the Plains on Wednesday, dropping heavy snow and packing high winds.
  • Blizzard conditions are expected and the NWS has issued blizzard warnings.
  • Travel conditions will be dangerous due to the combination of heavy snow and high winds.
  • Even where there is no snow, the storm’s high winds will also have a widespread impact in the west and midwest — winds of 60-80 mph are expected from New Mexico to Nebraska
  • The storm will also cause a flood risk in many states due to heavy rainfall and thawing snow in some areas.

Widespread power outages will be likely in many states, as well as interstate closures, and flight delays and cancellations.  If you are in the region or traveling through, we recommend staying tuned to the weather forecast throughout today.

Why This Matters:  Last year Colorado had little snow — this year it is a different story entirely.  The large snowfalls of the last ten days may have brought avalanches but they will also mean more water in the Colorado River this year — and may make a bit of a dent in the long term drought and lessen the risk of fires this summer.  Ski resorts in Colorado are having a banner year, and more snow is forecast for the next few weeks all the way through the end of ski season.  The El Niño is welcome this year in the parched west, even if it has soaked the rest of the country (see below).

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