In Bed At Nine- Guest Blog Post from Justin McHeffey
Hello Crested Butte! This is Meteorologist Justin McHeffey from CBS4 News in Denver. I'll break down how much we can expect from this weekend's storm and I have some good news—it may be the heaviest snow we've seen in the 'Butte this month!
Lots of ingredients are coming together for a 24–36 hour storm. Right now it looks like the Elk and West Elk Mountains will benefit from the most snow out of this system. So far this January, the highest total in a single storm cycle happened on the 20th of this month—we recorded 8" at mid-mountain. By Sunday evening (January 31) we may have over a foot of fresh on our hands. My projection is 10–14" total for Crested Butte through Sunday evening. The in-depth forecast continues below.
The National Weather Service has a Winter Storm Warning posted for Crested Butte from 6 a.m. Saturday through 9 a.m. Sunday. That's the pink shaded area on the map below. If you're a local that hits the mountain regularly, Sunday morning may be one of the best days of the season. If you're a Rocky Mountain Super Pass holder, this may be the weekend to pull the trigger on a drive down here.
One thing that caught my eye this morning was the Short Range Ensemble Forecast's (SREF) confidence in potential snowfall. Look how northern Gunnison County is in the bulls-eye for a greater than 50% chance of 8" or more of snow. Nothing in meteorology is gospel, but this is enough to get excited about. Lately, the SREF has leaned conservative on Colorado snows, so this is good to see. Also, Friday morning's quick inch of snowfall? That was more than the forecast brought to CB—another trend that makes our snow look promising.
Winds at 10,000' have a strong west-southwest flow for most of the storm—that's what we like to see in the West Elks. When the wind blows this way the air tends to dodge the San Juans to our south and the Gore Range to our north, leaving the door wide open for moisture to hit the 'Butte. The longer we stay locked into that wind pattern, the more time the snow clouds can hang over the mountain.
The map below shows the embedded disturbances within the jet stream flow. If we get periods of especially heavy snowfall it's likely because one of these features had moved overhead. While the Pacific air keeps the lower atmosphere saturated, there's lots of instability up around 20,000–30,000'—that'll cause stronger vertical motion with persistent snowfall.
This last map shows the jet stream winds way up in the sky. By Saturday evening there's a pronounced "jet max" moving in from the west. CB falls just to the northeast of the red color contours where the fastest winds are expected. The best snow sometimes forms in this "left front quadrant" of the jet max and may give us some long duration bands of heavy snow.
I was lucky enough to ski Spellbound when they opened it Friday morning. If it hammers all night (and it's not being worked on) I'll see you up there. Also, "Body Bag" wins the international trail name award.
All maps courtesy of the Dupage College of Meteorology and NOAA.
Written by: CBS 4 Meteorologist, Justin McHeffey