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Winter snow cover in Colorado helps reveal 'snow holes'

Almost all of Colorado is covered in snow, but a few brown spots remain. One that stood out is the Pueblo Snow Hole, which is the one true banana belt in Colorado.

PUEBLO, Colo. — Last week, a satellite revealed that 59.7% of the country was covered with snow on Thursday. That’s the most snow cover in a single day so far this winter.

That total had dropped down to 48.7% by Saturday, but there is another big storm that could bring more snow deep into the southern part of the country this week. 

Last winter, the highest nationwide snow cover reached a peak of 50.4% on Feb. 4.

The record for most single-day snow coverage is 73.2% which happened on Feb. 16, 2021. That was the polar vortex intrusion that blanketed Texas with ice and crippled the western power grid for days. 

The sample size is small mostly because NOAA only started tracking this data in the fall of 2003.  

Credit: NASA WorldView
National wide snow cover reached 59.7% on January 26, 2023. The most so far this winter.

The state of Colorado was nearly completely covered with snow as of Thursday, however percentages are not available by state.

All the snow visible on satellite also makes the spots that don’t have snow stick out a little more than they would in a normal year.  

Like a spot that meteorologists call the 'Pueblo Snow Hole'. The one true banana belt in Colorado. The reason for this warmer and drier spot is a result of wind direction.  

The National Weather Service (NWS) called it the Pueblo Precipitation Donut Hole in a recent Twitter thread because the hole is not just present during the winter months. 

Stormy winds in Colorado usually come from the west, the north, and sometimes the south. Well, the Pueblo area is sheltered from those winds by higher terrain. That forces the air to sink into Pueblo instead of rise, and you need air to rise to get snow clouds.  

To get good snow in Pueblo, there has to be a wind direction almost straight out of the east, which is the least common wind direction in Colorado.

Credit: NASA WorldView
Snow cover in Colorado on January 26, 2023

The Grand Valley on the Western Slope of Colorado has a similar effect. The winds downslope from the north off of the Book Cliffs, from the east off the Grand Mesa, and from the south off the Colorado National Monument. 

A westerly wind can bring some gentle upslope to the Grand Valley but because of its long east-west orientation, that upslope snow will often only impact the east end of the valley near Palisade. 

The San Luis Valley also gets a lot of downslope from the surrounding terrain. It does have a little advantage with some higher elevations though. 

The Montezuma Valley in southwest Colorado can get a lot of dry downsloping winds off of the San Juan mountain range.

The Denver area is in a great spot to benefit from almost every wind direction except west and northwest. East, North and northeast winds deliver a great upslope angle for big snow events. 

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