Considerable snow headed our way…

Frosted tree on a beautiful, almost spring morning – Pic taken 3/18/2023

Frosted tree on a beautiful, almost spring morning – Pic taken 3/18/2023

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Saturday – 18 Mar 2023 – 1:30pm

The past…

At Stevens Field the high temperature in the last 24 hours was 38 and the low this morning was 10. Here in O’Neal Park we had a low of 0. There is still no wind data for the airfield. Our peak wind was 12mph yesterday around 6pm when a band of showers moved through.

Average HighRecord High / YearAverage LowRecord Low / Year
5069 / 190716-10 / 1917

Precipitation summary… Wolf Creek reported another 2” of new snow this morning. Mostly light scattered snowshowers hit parts of the county yesterday and then a stronger band of showers moved through around dinnertime. Snowfall amounts were light.

CoCoRaHS 24-hour snowfall reports range from zero to 1.5”.  Mike was the snow lottery winner just north of Echo Canyon Reservoir!
CoCoRaHS 24-hour snowfall reports range from zero to 1.5”.  Mike was the snow lottery winner just north of Echo Canyon Reservoir!

Forecast discussion…

Water vapor satellite this morning – Have to look closely to see the narrow moisture band in our area. There’s just enough moisture to help fuel a few scattered showers again this afternoon/evening.  The remnants of that trough over NV will also help add a little fuel this evening. Most importantly, the green arrows show the direction of the next “atmospheric river” event.
Water vapor satellite this morning – Have to look closely to see the narrow moisture band in our area. There’s just enough moisture to help fuel a few scattered showers again this afternoon/evening.  The remnants of that trough over NV will also help add a little fuel this evening.
Most importantly, the green arrows show the direction of the next “atmospheric river” event.

There is nothing significant radar this morning in the region.

Important highlights…

*** Late Monday morning through Wednesday evening we’ll have another “atmospheric river” event. This one will be our strongest. It will ramp up Monday afternoon, lull a bit Monday night into Tuesday morning, and then ramp up again Tuesday afternoon to late Wednesday morning. Things will finally taper off through the rest of Wednesday. ***

*** Temps will be a little cooler but remain mostly above freezing so snow will be wet and heavy. Be prepared for power outages, rising streams, and flooding in low-lying areas. ***

*** Travel conditions will be treacherous, especially over Wolf Creek Pass. At times visibility will be near zero with heavy snow and blowing snow. I expect Wolf Creek Pass to be closed at times. Make sure to check CDOT for current conditions. ***

Rest of today through early Monday morning… A weakening trough will move through our area late this evening. Moisture is slowly decreasing, but a shower or two is possible late this afternoon and into the evening, mostly in the mountains. Sunday night clouds will increase and the chance for scattered showers will increase, especially over the mountains.

Temps… Highs will be in the high 30s to mid-40s. Lows tonight will be in mid-teens to mid-20s. Due to cloud-cover lows will warm a bit Sunday night into the high teens to high 20s.

Winds… Afternoon winds will peak in the 10-15mph range.

Precip forecast…

Valley: Mostly zero but the lucky spots could get up to a half inch of snow

Mountains above 9,000ft: 1-2” of snow but it will be spotty

Late Monday morning through Thursday morning… The next “atmospheric river” event will impact us.  This will be our strongest one. The track, moisture, and storm energy are lining up to bring us a whole bunch of moisture. Though this system will be a little cooler overall, we’ll see more snow, but it will be wet and heavy. In addition, an isolated thunderstorm or two is possible Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon.

Note… I made small changes to the timing, snow levels, bumped up winds little, and bumped up precip amounts a little.

Timing… The first few scattered showers will develop over the mountains Monday morning and then over the valley by late morning. Precip will ramp up Monday afternoon and fall moderately to heavily until midnight.  Precip will decrease a bit midnight through Tuesday morning.  Then it will ramp up again and fall moderately to heavily Tuesday afternoon through early Wednesday afternoon. Precip will gradually taper off through late Wednesday afternoon. The bulk of the precip will be done by late Wednesday evening, but spotty showers will linger through Thursday afternoon, especially over the mountains.

Temps… Highs will be in the mid-30s to low 40s. Lows Monday night and Tuesday night will be in the high 20s to low 30s and then Wednesday night lows will be in the high teens to mid-20s.

Winds… Tuesday afternoon winds will peak in the 15-20mph range and then increase Tuesday night into the 20-30mph range. By Wednesday around noon, they’ll be in the 25-35mph range with peaks around 40mph in the windy spots into Wednesday evening. Winds will gradually weaken Wednesday night.

Snow levels… Will start Monday morning below 6,500ft and by Monday afternoon they’ll increase into the 6,800ft to 7,200ft range, and then decrease below 6,800ft Monday night. Tuesday afternoon to early Wednesday afternoon they’ll bounce around between 7,000ft and 7,400ft. As moisture decreases Wednesday evening and precip becomes more scattered, the snow level will drop below 7,000ft.

My precip forecast…

Valley below 7,600ft: 1.50” to 2.00” of liquid equivalent and 6-12” of snow

Valley above 7,600ft: 1.75” to 2.25” of liquid equivalent and 12-20” of snow

Mountains above 9,000ft: 30-50” of snow!

WPC total precip loop Monday at 6am to Thursday at 6am – The maps are valid at 6am Monday, 6am Tuesday, 6am Wednesday, and 6am Thursday.  Amounts are precip totals to that point.  Subtracting the difference between each map is the expected 24-hour precip. This forecast product is a blend of models and is one of the few models that gets human input and is tweaked accordingly. Totals for Pagosa start at 0.14” then go to 0.81”, 1.57”, and finally 2.13”.  The total for Chama is 2.80” and 4-5” for our mountains! *** Weather geek time… To determine snow amounts, we usually start with a 10:1 ratio.  However, this time of year, and with most of this precip falling with temps 32 to 36 degrees, I expect the ratio to be closer to 6:1 near Pagosa. This would result in 12-13” total snowfall for town. As you go up in elevation, you get slightly more precip with slightly cooler temps, so I expect snow ratios to be as high as 8:1 in those parts of the valley. That results in about 20” of snow in those areas! ***
WPC total precip loop Monday at 6am to Thursday at 6am – The maps are valid at 6am Monday, 6am Tuesday, 6am Wednesday, and 6am Thursday.  Amounts are precip totals to that point.  Subtracting the difference between each map is the expected 24-hour precip. This forecast product is a blend of models and is one of the few models that gets human input and is tweaked accordingly.

Totals for Pagosa start at 0.14” then go to 0.81”, 1.57”, and finally 2.13”.  The total for Chama is 2.80” and 4-5” for our mountains!

*** Weather geek time… To determine snow amounts, we usually start with a 10:1 ratio.  However, this time of year, and with most of this precip falling with temps 32 to 36 degrees, I expect the ratio to be closer to 6:1 near Pagosa. This would result in 12-13” total snowfall for town. As you go up in elevation, you get slightly more precip with slightly cooler temps, so I expect snow ratios to be as high as 8:1 in those parts of the valley. That results in about 20” of snow in those areas! ***
NBM snowfall to Thursday at 6am… This is also blended model that uses data from numerous other forecast models. Right now, I agree with this for snowfall. It shows 10.9” for Pagosa, 15.2” for Chama, and 30-50” for our mountains!
NBM snowfall to Thursday at 6am… This is also blended model that uses data from numerous other forecast models. Right now, I agree with this for snowfall. It shows 10.9” for Pagosa, 15.2” for Chama, and 30-50” for our mountains!

My next forecast post will be tomorrow afternoon.

– Shawn

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I’ve been a “weather geek” since I was young child. I joined the military out of high school and was lucky to get my dream job in weather. I have 20 years of military weather experience which includes forecasting the weather all over the world. Highlights were six years in Alaska and making life and death weather decisions during deployments. I love mountains, I love snow, and I love summertime thunderstorms. I spend a bunch of time playing outdoors and found my paradise in Pagosa Springs. I do Pagosa Weather as a community service. Hopefully you find us helpful!
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