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Snow Blog: Major spring storm brewing

Cutoff lows with a blocking pattern usually equals slow moving spring storms. That's the forecast for this weekend.
Credit: KUSA

DENVER — There is a spring storm brewing in the computer forecast models with great potential to hit Colorado.

March has been lagging behind the winter months in snow totals over the past few years, especially in Denver – 2016 was the last time March was our top snow-getter. And February posted a big 13.5 inches total for 2021, which you would think would make it hard to beat again. 

But if this system coming on the weekend plays its cards just right, it could overtake that number. 

This snow blog watches snow chances develop in the computer forecast models. 

March 8 (Monday)

This very small and fast-moving system will move through the mountains on Monday.

Mostly 1-2 inches of snow is being shown the San Juan's but the central mountains could also get a dusting.

No impact for the Front Range.

CHANCE OF SNOW IN DENVER: 0%

LIKELY ACCUMULATION AT DIA: 0 inches

March 9-10 (Tue-Wed)

An active storm period will begin on Tuesday as a trough dives into the Great Basin to our west while a small short wave moves across the northern parts of Colorado. 

This will result in some light snow accumulation for the mountains focused to the north. The best snow will likely be on Wednesday morning. Models are showing 1-3 inches in some of the mountain towns and about 3-6 on the passes. 

Might not be enough for an advisory, but a decent little snow after a long warm break. 

I would expect a few showers to make it down to the Front Range as well. Could be a mix on Wednesday, but the models are showing just enough snow to dust the grassy areas in some spots north of Denver. 

CHANCE OF SNOW IN DENVER: 5%

LIKELY ACCUMULATION AT DIA: 0 inches

March 11-12 (Thu-Fri) 

Then the system developing in the Great Basin is gaining favor with the models. They have slowed it, strengthened it, and moved it into a better position over the past 3 days of modeling. This could be a major storm and the biggest impacts could be in Colorado, so let's watch this one develop.

As a slow mover, it will be easier to break the impacts up into periods, even though, if it plays out like the models are currently showing, it could be four straight days of impacts. 

Credit: KUSA

The first impact to Colorado would come as the upper low gets cutoff near Las Vegas on Thursday. There could be some major impacts on the foothills at this time. Models are currently showing 6-12 inches by Friday night. 

They are also showing 2-5 inches of snow in the Denver metro area. This would be by Friday night, so only about halfway through the storm.  

CHANCE OF SNOW IN DENVER:    25%

LIKELY ACCUMULATION AT DIA:   2 inches

March 13-14 (Sat-Sun) 

The models are currently showing this system progressing across northern New Mexico and blossoming into a full-blow Amarillo Low. 

If this happens we could be looking at some insane snow impacts to the southeast plains, along with some high snow totals on the Front Range. 

There are a ton of variables that would all have to come together at just the right time. So far the models are showing that happening, but this is all hypothetical, as the system is nowhere even near forming.  

For a storm like this, we will be lucky to know how it will play out 6 hours in advance, but we can at least start breaking down probability. 

Variable Number One: One of the important factors is the size of the system. These cutoff lows are very small, covering just one or two states at a time. When they are connected to a trough, the target is much larger. Even a slight move from a small system like this can ramp the impacts up or down dramatically. 

Variable Number Two: The fact that it will likely be cutoff from a trough is a big factor in itself. When it is connected, it gives computer models some guidance as to what direction it will travel. When it's cutoff, they are almost free to wander about the country, and they usually do just that. 

Variable Number Three: Another big factor as to speed and direction of this storm will be blocking high pressure to the east and to the north. 

High pressure to the east is being shown in modeling as pretty strong, which is slowing the system down. The slower it moves across northern New Mexico, the more winter weather impacts Colorado will have. 

And the high pressure to the north and northeast of Colorado is what will be preventing it from moving to the northeast, which is the direction is naturally wants to go. 

So far, all of these variables, along with many others, are looking great for more snow in Colorado. Since all the models have been very consistent and in agreement for 3 straight days is a very good sign that this could likely happen.  

The current timing of this thing would bring the heaviest snow potential to Colorado on Saturday night lasting through the day on Sunday. And the heavy snow would cover almost all of eastern Colorado, with more to the south than the north. 

March 16-17

And then there is one more storm system being shown closing out this active period. This one could likely have impacts to the Front Range but at this time it only looks like a rain/snow mix.

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