Mar 12, 2024 - News

Colorado braces for a "beast" of a snowstorm slated to hit Wednesday

A snowplow in Nederland in March 2021. Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A mega March snowstorm is headed straight for the Front Range starting Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

Why it matters: Aside from severely snarling travel, spurring school closures and causing power outages, the snow will be a welcome respite for the shrinking Colorado River and the state's below-average snowpack.

By the numbers: The NWS forecast office in Boulder early Wednesday morning projected 8-16 inches across the Denver metro area, with up to 20 inches west of Interstate 25.

  • Snow accumulation along the Eastern Slope could be up to four feet before the weekend.

Zoom in: This will be an unusual storm for many areas used to powdery, dry snow, as it will be heavy and wet with an atypically high amount of moisture with the storm.

  • The bulk of the storm arrives this afternoon in the mountains and foothills, per the NWS, and rain will shift to snow this evening on the plains.
Forecast snowfall from the National Weather Service from Wednesday through early Friday morning. Image: Courtesy of Pivotal Weather

What they're saying: "This is the big one," 9News meteorologist Chris Bianchi shared on X. "This is a beast of a storm," he added.

  • Travel will be "difficult if not impossible," especially late Wednesday night through Thursday, NWS said in a statement.
  • United and Southwest airlines have issued travel alerts and are offering Colorado travelers rebookings free of charge, the Denver Post reports.

The intrigue: The setup for this storm is somewhat unusual. A frontal zone draped across the Plains will combine with a low pressure area over the Four Corners region to draw a flow of moist air westward toward Denver and the Rockies, dumping heavy snow for more than 36 hours in some locations.

  • This will set up upslope flow, making the snow fall heaviest in the foothills and mountains west of Denver, but even the city is likely to get a major snowstorm.

Flashback: This incoming storm could rival the one that hit Denver in 2021, when the official total was 27.1 inches, ranking as the fourth-largest recorded since 1882, Fox31 reports.

Reality check: Although computer models are unified in showing significant snowfall, they differ on some of the details.

  • However, forecasters' confidence in a major snowstorm increased throughout the day on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include details about the latest forecast.

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