We are just off the heels of an epic chase from 28 inches in Washington to 2-2.5 feet in New Mexico. Check out the Alpental chase edit here, and the footage from the first day of riding at Taos here. Follow @lstone84 on Instagram for deep chase videos from all over North America. The weather gods aren't keen on giving us much rest either, as an even more active and deep pattern is on the horizon. The first of too many storms to count is already underway in Washington, and will continue through Sunday night delivering solid totals to the Northwest and Northern Rockies. With no break, the next behemoth of a storm, with frigid arctic air, will arrive early next week, dropping huge totals across a very wide area. Beyond that one, yet another small storm keeps the snow falling, before another potentially massive storm moves in. We'll get into the specifics of storm #1 during this post, and broadly review the ones to follow.
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Short Term Forecast
As mentioned, the first of many snow storms is underway in Washington, as a result of a run of the mill upper level low pressure system swinging through the Northwest. The deepest totals from this round of snow will be in Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado, where generally 6-12 inches are expected. The heaviest snow will fall after midnight tonight (Friday) through Saturday in Washington, where Steven's Pass, Mt. Baker, and Snoqualmie should receive 4-8\", with less at Crystal.
The snow will start flying in northern Idaho and northwestern Montana today as well, heaviest Saturday through Sunday. Expect 5-10 inches for Montana Snowbowl, Showdown, Bridger Bowl, and Big Sky, with around 3-6\" at Schweitzer, Selkirk Powder, Silver Mountain, and Lookout Pass.
In the Tetons, light snow could start as early as Saturday afternoon, picking up in the evening and overnight, continuing through midday. During that time, Jackson and Grand Targhee should see 6-12 inches of low density snow. Between midnight and 6 am Sunday, snow will shift to northern Colorado, and continue to fall through Sunday evening. Steamboat should see about 5-10\" while the rest of the northern half of Colorado should receive 2-6 inches.
Below is the snow forecast from the GFS for the first storm. Expect higher totals especially in the Tetons and Montana with some colder air and higher snow ratios.
The second in this series of storms arrives in the Northwest around Sunday night. As has been the case many times this winter, this storm will contain a strong atmospheric river with ample moisture.
Check out the moisture tap below, streaming into the Northwest and then penetrating well inland.
Much like the previous atmospheric river events this season, warm air will accompany the river of moisture. Unlike many of the previous events, a very strong cold front will push its way through the West beginning Monday evening. For many areas of the West, including western Wyoming, the Sierra, Colorado, and especially Utah, there is enough moisture in place behind the frigid cold front to produce significant very low density snow. This will produce great conditions with right side up snow, with a deep layer of dense snow and a light low density layer on top. Unfortunately, winds will be ripping with this strong storm. See the GIF below showing the strong winds first in Washington and then sagging south as the storm progresses through the West.
Close attention will need to be paid to the winds and cold front timing, and the best conditions will likely be toward the end of the heavy snowfall. Since this is still several days out, we will provide an update with more details later.
Long Term Outlook
After this atmospheric river event the winds calm down mid to late week, the models have another weak storm continuing snowfall in the Northwest, and then another potential blockbuster after that, around the 25th. The long range models keep the pattern active through the beginning of March as well.
Thanks for reading the forecast. Follow me @lstone84 on Instagram to track and chase storms all Winter long!