PHOTOS: Snow storm blankets Colorado
Gusty winds created blowing snow and icy roadways made for a tough drive early Thursday. Denver is officially reporting 2 inches of snow, but areas west and south reported much more.
9NEWS Chief Meteorologist Kathy Sabine says a core of very strong winds from the Pacific Northwest moved over northern Colorado. The nose of the northern jet was diving southeast along the foothills - creating the perfect scenario for powerful winds.
As the jet combined with an upper-level disturbance and cold front at the surface, heavy snow began to fall shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday. This led to enhanced upslope and banded precipitation. The heavier band moved slowly over the southern and western suburbs of Denver creating heavy snowfall, near blizzard conditions and 1 to 2 foot snow drifts.
Accumulation in the metro area was 2 to 4 inches, with the heaviest snow falling south of Denver. Boulder, Brighton, Loveland and Fort Collins reported around an inch.
More snow totals:
Denver - 2 inches
Highlands Ranch - 10 inches
Aurora - 6 inches
Lakewood - 8 inches
Wheat Ridge - 4 inches
Littleton - 6-7 inches
Centennial - 4 inches
Evergreen - 6 inches
Castle Rock, Elizabeth, Parker and Franktown - 8-10 inches
The heavy snow is tapering off in the northern mountains where areas like Steamboat reported around 4 feet of snow in one week.
An AVALANCHE WARNING has also been issued through noon on Friday because of recent snow accumulations of 6-12 inches of snow and strong westerly winds. This warning is for the Front Range and Vail-Summit County zones. Backcountry travelers will need to exercise extreme caution and are advised to stay well away from any terrain that exceeds 30 degrees slope angle.
Thursday's snow came after wind gusts caused widespread damage on Wednesday. There were multiple reports of trees and power lines down, damage to structures and at least two wildfires.
PHOTOS: HIGH WIND GUSTS ON WEDNESDAY
Kathy says the high winds peaked Wednesday, blowing 80 to 100 mph along the foothills and eastern-facing slopes of the northern and central mountains.
Here are some peak wind gusts from Wednesday:
Lyons - 93 mph
Morrison - 92 mph
Broomfield - 77 mph
SW Boulder - 88 mph
Fort Collins - 64 mph
Hoyt - 73 mph
Grover - 60 mph
Sterling - 63 mph
Nederland - 81 mph
Dumont - 72 mph
NW Rocky Flats - 81 mph
Golden - 73 mph
Black Hawk - 73 mph
Xcel Energy says most of the customers who lost power on Wednesday had it restored by Thursday afternoon. About 7,000 customers were still without power. At the height of the outages on Wednesday night, 33,000 customers were without power. A total of 45,000 lost power over the course of the wind storm.
The high winds forced the closure of a facility created to study wind. The National Wind Technology Center, located near the mouth of Eldorado Canyon, sent employees home out of concern for their safety. Winds early in the day were clocked at 81 mph.
In addition to safety concerns, there was little reason to keep employees at the facility considering the fact the turbines shut down in extreme wind conditions.
"It blows over 60 mph so rarely that rather than engineer the machines to withstand those winds, they go into a parked mode until the storm passes," Fort Felker, director of the National Wind Technology Center, said.
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