March 12, 2021

A Big Late-Season Snowstorm Will Blanket The Front Range This Weekend

A big-time snowstorm is on the way for the Front Range this weekend. Some communities will wind up measuring snow in feet, which is pretty rare for lower elevations during the heart of winter let alone the middle of March. The heaviest snow will fall in Colorado and Wyoming. The snow will be heavy and wet, leading to a greater-than-normal chance for power outages and tree damage across the affected areas.

A big upper-level low rolling over the southwestern United States tonight will feed the development of a low-pressure system along the leeward side of the Rocky Mountains on Friday night and into Saturday. The system will ramp-up in a hurry, quickly producing heavy rain and snow on the northern and western side of the system.

Forecasters are expecting impressive snowfall totals from the system, largely as a result of the low's strength, its slow forward movement, and enhanced moisture pumping into the system from the south. Heavy snow will begin on Saturday and will last through Sunday night or Monday morning in most areas.

Friday night's forecast from the National Weather Service showed more than a foot of snow falling in metro Denver, nearly two feet of snow in Boulder and Fort Collins, and more than two feet of snow in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Higher elevations up in the mountains could see many feet of snow by the time the skies clear out, blowing out my the high end of my color scale on the map above.

That's a whole lot of snow for this region. March is typically Denver's snowiest month, accounting for about 20 percent of the city's average annual total. The all-time record for a March snowstorm in Denver was 31.8" during a storm in late March of 2003, followed by a foot-and-a-half of snow in March 1983. This storm probably won't break any monthly or all-time records, but it's going to be a memorable one if forecasts hold true, especially north of the city closer to Boulder and Fort Collins.

Snow isn't the only issue. It's going to get very windy. Wind gusts could easily exceed 40 MPH in places. Blizzard warnings are in place for southeastern Wyoming in anticipation of gusty winds and heavy snow leading to whiteout conditions during the height of the storm.

The combination of wet snow and gusty winds could lead to widespread power outages and tree damage. We've all pretty much got a handle on how to get through a power outage—and it's probably too late to run to the store and prepare for one. Just remain mindful of large trees and tree limbs that loom close to your home or vehicle. If you have a rickety tree limb that could fall through a wall or roof, it's best to avoid those rooms at all costs. Most serious injuries that result from storms like this are through car accidents on icy roads or trees falling into homes.

If you follow anyone tangentially interested in storm chasing, chances are you've heard all about the severe weather potential in Texas and Oklahoma on Saturday. The southern end of this snowstorm will have plenty of lift, instability, and wind shear for thunderstorms to develop and quickly turn severe.

The Storm Prediction Center issued an enhanced risk for severe weather across eastern parts of the Texas Panhandle, including a decent chance of tornadoes that could be strong or long-lived. This is the first "big" threat of the year across traditional chasing grounds, so there's more buzz online about the threat than there are residents in the at-risk areas.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.