Early-Season CO Front Range Snowstorm

Nov 6, 2004
Dodge City, KS
I am about to embark on my first snowstorm chase. I've always wanted to experience an October or March Front Range snowstorm, and since I had Columbus Day off and took Tuesday off, I'll get this chance given this good timing.

Target: Castle Rock. Departure 230pm CDT with arrival time around 7pm MDT this evening.

A slow-moving, large upper low will provide strong and deep, moist upslope...combined with warm conveyer belt lift...to produce upwards of 2 feet of snow in some places south and southwest of Denver...along and just north/northwest of Palmer Divide. With foliage still on most trees, significant vegetative damage is possible along with widespread power outages. My plan is to stay in Castle Rock at the Super 8 I have reservations at through the event and hopefully provide (near) real-time photography on my blog...or also on ST. Those that know me well know that I'm a snow nut... this is my hurricane chase!

Mike U
I won't be chasing, so-to-speak, as I get to enjoy this from the comfort of my yard (or on campus). I, too, will be posting updates on my website as well, so I invite you to stay tuned to both Mike and I during this storm. I'm skeptical of the predicted accumulations and think we'the lower end of those numbers as I'm not sure how much will actually stick when it does change over.

But, if this has the effect on vegitation that it could, this could be the Columbus Day Blizzard of 2005.

Stay tuned!
Short update before I get another round of Z's. I found a decent measuring spot on a flat trailer bed in the parking lot that's elevated off the ground. 3.3" as of 230am MDT. What a wet, sloppy snow! Even with only a little over 3 inches so far, the smaller trees around here are severely drooped. I'm posting updates on my blog which also has a link to my photo gallery for this event.

Quick look at radar suggests the huge warm conveyer belt precip is really starting to come into the front range now. I still think a healthly 12-18"+ is likely for a lot of the urban corridor and foothills, which would cause some severe problems with so much foliage.

Mike U in Castle Rock, CO
As of 5:30am, my place in Lakewood has seen less than 2 inches, and that's being generous. Looks like the winds at lower levels had a westerly component which severely hampered the snow production over night. A huge disappointment to which really came as no surprise, although my thoughts on lower accumulations came from warmer temps as opposed to a westerly wind. In any case, definately not the storm it was hyped up to be and certainly no real big surprise.
Hey Tony, yeah I agree... boy what a difficult event to forecast. If it weren't for the stubborn 330 to 340 surface wind, much of those 30dbz echoes would be hitting the urban corridor. Now I'd say that 1 foot would be about tops for anywhere along I-25. I haven't gone out and measured yet, but just looking out the window it's probably a solid 5 to 6 inches. For the rest of the event it all depends on how much of that good precip can make it northwest before hitting the slight downslope subsident boundary layer flow. I forgot how subtle those stubborn boundary layer winds can be.... where 30 degrees can make or break an event along the urban corridor.

EDIT: Measurement at 720am MDT of 5.6". The parking lot is a giant slop of slush but the snow is sticking to everything imaginable. I'll get out and take some photos later on this morning.

Mike U
Mike -

You're doing what I dream of doing! I hope you have fun.........there would be something very magical about experiencing a snowstorm this early in the season.....sort of like something you're not supposed to be seeing!

Are you not going to take off and get up the mountains any?? :D

All I can say about the NWS and Denver TV meteorologists right now...
Woke up at 4:30 this morning when the power flickered off and on for about thirty seconds and then finally went out. Looked out the window and saw... SNOW?! Even this morning, Scott Mace was saying "nothing but rain for the northeastern plains." Rain, my ass! It's snowed about 5 inches so far and is really weighing down the Siberian Elms(most of which still have their leaves) and evergreens on our farm. Had a scary moment about 6:45 this morning when I brought my dad's 1997 F-150 up and parked it under the big Siberian elm in front of our house. As I was eating breakfast, I heard a loud CRACK! and THUMP! I jumped up and looked out the window to see a 5"+ diameter branch had snapped and landed on the hood of my dad's truck. It left a significant dent on the hood just above the left headlight and almost went through the windshield, thank god it didn't. I am so pissed right now I want to scream. They don't even have any warnings out and it's almost whiteout conditions. God, I hate it when the Denver/Boulder WFO and the Denver TV meteorologists get so fixated on the Front RAnge/Foothills they completley ignore what is happening on the northeastern plains... :evil:
The temperature when I left at 6:50 had actually dropped two degrees to 26, down from 29 at 5:30.
Looks like that westerly component surface winds pushed all the Front Range snow out to higher elevations of northern Morgan/eastern Weld County! :)
After crashing out for a quick hour nap before kicking off the day, I caught a bus to campus and will kick off my work week as usual. Snow was still falling at a light to sometimes moderate clip, but accumulations were no more than 2 inches anywhere. At my place, about 1.5 inches in spots; campus had about an inch. I did post a picture on my front page I took at the bus stop this morning of my car and the light coating of snow behind it. This storm is expected to weaken as the day progresses, but its possible to see another couple of inches before all is said and done. Mike so far has seen 5.6 inches of snow in Castle Rock, which sounds about right. The current radar loop is showing the heavier snows still off to the east of the I-25 corridor, but slowly making its way back to the west which may give us a shot at some heavier snow before this storm dies out. The killer was the westerly wind component which took away from the low-level upslope and kept the heavier precip off to our east. Temperatures played a role as well as lighter falling snow had more of a chance to melt off before it could pile up. Both those factors combined to really kill off the snowfall for the Urban Corridor. While I'm not sure how well we would've done had the winds stayed easterly, but it would've certainly been a helluva lot better than what we did thus far. Roads were wet and sometimes slushy, but overall, it looks as if the rush hour will survive (minus the idiot-factor). I'll update again about noon.
Mention was made in previous dicsussions that the models were hinting at this NW wind during this event. While I think hesitation was there to make any adjustments for warnings out east (as Mark awakened to find out), its apparent that this wasn't a total surprise. In fact, I had also made mention of it in yesterday morning's blog entry. And it did indeed push the heavier snowfall away from the Urban Corridor and further into the Plains where temps cooled enough for the rain to change to snow. My thoughts are that temps weren't expected to dip as far as they did, thus Mark and those out east awakened to see several inches of snow and huge branches lying on the hoods of their cars!
Sounds like a blast to be out there. Can't wait for it to start here. That's the trouble with snow/ice events, they can shift on you at the last minute just like a hurricane or tornado target can. The problem is that repositioning for the 'intercept' at that late stage is usually impossible or too dangerous!
1.5" new in the last 2 hours. As of 9:20am, storm total at my motel in Castle Rock is 7.1" I'm getting things ready to venture out for a few hours and document the storm.
Castle Rock is quickly becoming a mess with huge limbs coming down everywhere. I just drove through the downtown district and the main street is becoming littered with limbs. There are some one foot diameter huge limbs down in many places. I heard one of them come down which blocked one lane of the north-south streets leading to downtown. Lots of photos which I'll share later on. Taking a quick lunch break here before I go out again for more. We stand at around 8.3" here in Castle Rock. I gotta believe there's some areas in eastern Arapahoe county around a foot and a half the way the radar has been playing out.

Mike U
this system just keeps rotating and rotating over KS and CO - with a counter clockwise rotation, and somewhat imbedded - another month from now this would have been a blizzard
We have gotten easily a foot of snow at my place up at 9080' west of Denver. I had to plow our driveway twice already and to top it all our propane tank ran out and we have no heat or hot water! Mike, you should come up here if you want to see some big snowfall! :D
How do you chase a snowstorm? Do you just follow the trends, and then, get caught in the snow?

Sort of like you'd chase storms (or a hurricane, for this matter)... You make a forecast, pick an area - and go to it...
Verne, you're alive! And you speak! Was wonderin' how you were fairin' up there. Glad to see you got some snow up that way. I literally have seen only a wet dusting of snow downtown; about 2, maybe 3 inches in Lakewood, and a bit more down my work (Southwest Denver/Ken Caryl).

A huge disappointment for me I must say as I was hoping to at least PRETEND to come close to the predicted amounts... they were saying 8 to 18 inches last night and we couldn't even hit in that 10 inch range! *LOL* I'm not sure we could even convert what melted on contact to muster anywhere near that much. Damn NW winds kicked it all out east.

Ah well, its early and its nice to see a setup like this so soon. Hopefully this proves to be an omen for us!
How do you chase a snowstorm? Do you just follow the trends, and then, get caught in the snow?

Sort of like you'd chase storms (or a hurricane, for this matter)... You make a forecast, pick an area - and go to it...

Nick, I do understand that bit, what I meaning to refer to was, what exactly are you targeting/trying to get to?
How do you chase a snowstorm? Do you just follow the trends, and then, get caught in the snow?

Sort of like you'd chase storms (or a hurricane, for this matter)... You make a forecast, pick an area - and go to it...

Nick, I do understand that bit, what I meaning to refer to was, what exactly are you targeting/trying to get to?

I guess your question should be "how do you forecast a winter storm?"... And to get an answer to that question, you would probably need to start your own thread and let all of us winter storm buffs chime in :wink:
Not so much as forecasting, but just what are you trying to get out of chasing a winter/snow system?

Well, chasing winter storms certainly isn't my cup of tea (definitely wouldn't do it), but for some others - it's the exact opposite... Just as chasing severe storms, tornadoes, etc. rocks my boat, but some others wouldn't even care...
Not so much as forecasting, but just what are you trying to get out of chasing a winter/snow system?

Again, not that this belongs in this thread, but... For me, it's the calmness, tranquility, and silence of falling snow - only to be distrubed by a clap or two of thunder. There's just something about deserted city streets, stranded cars, etc.. that creates quite a scene.