Potent spring snow puts Fort Collins under winter storm warning

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Enjoy today’s Fort Collins forecast high of 65 degrees because Thursday the city will be under a winter storm warning. 

The National Weather Service on Wednesday afternoon upgraded its designation for Thursday’s storm for the city and Eastern Plains as the strong system moves closer to the state.

Fort Collins will be under a winter storm warning from 9 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday. Initially the area was under a winter storm watch.

The warning area includes Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver and the foothills and mountains directly west of the cities.

NWS issued a blizzard warning that includes Greeley but just misses Fort Collins and includes much of the area from Colorado Springs northeast to the Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska border for 9 a.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday.

Winter storm warning

NWS says moderate to heavy snowfall will start in the mountains late Wednesday and spill over onto the Front Range and Eastern Plains on Thursday morning. Expect heavy, wet snow accumulations of 4 to 10 inches with winds gusting to 40 mph. That will create snow- and slush-covered roads with blowing snow significantly reducing visibility. The combination of treacherous road conditions and poor visibility will result in difficult to impossible travel.

Expect hazardous conditions during the Thursday evening commute. Also, strong winds and heavy snow could cause power line and tree damage.

The heaviest snow is expected to occur in and near the Front Range foothills, including Estes Park, Red Feather Lakes and Palmer Divide. Snowfall rates Thursday afternoon could reach 1 to 3 inches per hour. Precipitation will begin as rain Thursday morning and then change to snow during the late morning and early afternoon. Snow totals could change depending on when the rain changes to snow.

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Blizzard warning

The weather service’s definition of blizzard is falling or blowing snow that reduces visibility to a quarter-mile, plus winds that frequently gust to at least 35 mph. Those conditions must be predominant for at least three consecutive hours.

NWS said the warning area can expect 3 to 7 inches of snow with winds gusting to 55 mph Thursday through early Friday.

The worst travel conditions are expected Thursday afternoon and night, with the strongest wind to occur just east of I-25.

Snow- and slush-covered roads, blowing snow, reduced visibility will combine to to make travel difficult to impossible.

NWS in Cheyenne previously issued a blizzard warning for Wednesday evening through Friday for the area from Sidney, Nebraska, to Laramie, Wyoming, and north. The forecast calls for 4 to 9 inches of snow and winds up to 50 mph. 

Travel in the blizzard warning area should be restricted to emergencies only.

Road, air travel impacts

Expect major travel impacts on Interstate 25 from the Wyoming border to Colorado Springs, on Interstate 76 from Denver to the state line as well as on Interstate 70 from Denver to Vail and east of Denver to Limon.

For Colorado road conditions, visit https://www.cotrip.org/

Expect hazardous travel conditions on Interstate 80 in Wyoming and Nebraska.

For Wyoming road conditions, visit https://www.wyoroad.info/. For Nebraska road conditions, visit https://hb.511.nebraska.gov/

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Denver International Airport is located in the winter storm warning area but near the blizzard warning area. As of 2 p.m. Wednesday, there were zero delays and 149 cancellations for Thursday, according to https://flightaware.com/live/cancelled/tomorrow/KDEN.

It is advised you check with your airline for flight status before heading to DIA if you have a Thursday flight.

Reporter Miles Blumhardt looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at milesblumhardt@coloradoan.com or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today

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