This is the last installment of our weekly weather updates for the U.S., and I’m happy to report that we’re going to end on a spectacularly snowy note. This was a season of both feast and famine, and luckily for some of the famished areas, the last weekend of the season will send folks home with smiles.
While the northern third of the west coast measured a ton of snow this winter (including Oregon, Washington, Idaho as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming), the states in the middle came out on the other side of the coin. California, Utah and Colorado can often “go either way” during La Niña winters, and the 2011/2012 season was a prime example of going the “drier way.” While Tahoe has made up some ground over the last month, the snow currently on the ground in Utah and Colorado is only about 40 to 50 percent of average.
The snowfall forecast from Wednesday through Sunday by the American weather forecasting model, called the GFS. Many resorts in California, Utah and Colorado should end the season with lots of powder.
One storm will not fully “come to the rescue” of the Utah and Colorado snowpack, but the upcoming storm should send the season out with a bang. It’ll first move into California in pieces, with up to three feet of snow falling in Tahoe by the end of the week. Then the storm will coalesce and as it moves east, throwing down a foot or more for Utah. And not to be outdone, two areas of Colorado will see deep totals from this storm as well. First, the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado will see heavy snow Friday night through Saturday. As this is closing weekend for Silverton, the timing could not be more perfect with some storm skiing on Saturday and on-and-off snow on Sunday. And finally, the storm’s northeastern edge will wrap snow back into the mountains just west of Denver and Boulder which should drop significant powder on Eldora just in time for their closing day on Sunday.
One caveat to this forecast is that we’re talking about a cut-off storm, which means the storm has cut-off from the main west-to-east flow of weather. This happened to the majority of storms this season, and it makes forecasting even more difficult. When a storm cuts off, it tends to “float around” and go in any direction it chooses. Since forecasting the exact storm track is critical to forecasting the areas of heaviest snow, cut-off storms with a mind of their own drive forecasters nuts as the storm track is constantly shifting. But while the forecast snow amounts might change somewhat compared to what I’m talking about and what the map above shows, it does look like this week will be a lot snowier for many areas that have only seen the sun for the past month. And that’s the way to end a season! See you in six months…
Meteorologist Joel Gratz is the creator of opensnow.com and is based in Boulder, Colo.