Update: Fort Collins, Rocky Mountain National Park announce closures ahead of snow

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Larimer County closes natural areas

The Larimer County Department of Natural Resources closed its properties Friday afternoon through Monday in preparation of the storm. The closure includes Red Mountain, Horsetooth Mountain, Soderberg, Blue Sky, Horsetooth Reservoir east-side day-use areas, Hermit Park and Devil’s Backbone open spaces, according to a tweet from the department.

So, if you were planning a 10K trail run in the foothills or a hike up to Horsetooth Rock, just don’t. “Please respect the closures,” the tweet reads, “Stay home and stay safe!”

Fort Collins, RMNP announce preemptive closures

Fort Collins and Rocky Mountain National Park have announced preemptive closures ahead of expected heavy snowfall this weekend.

Fort Collins

City officials are preparing drivers for potentially trecherous driving conditions and reminding that a traffic signal blocked by snow should be treated as a stop sign.

In addition to mirroring traffic warnings produced by state agencies, the city also announced closures of the following amenities:

  • Timberline Recycling Center will be closed Saturday and Sunday.
  • Gardens at Spring Creek will be closed Saturday and Sunday.
  • Parks and Recreation: All facilities will be closed Saturday and Sunday, and weekend programs have been canceled or postponed.
  • Natural Areas: Soapstone Prairie and Gateway are closed Friday through Sunday. The Cathy Fromme Prairie parking lot off Fromme Prairie Way, the Pineridge lower parking lot off Larimer County Road 42C, and the Reservoir Ridge parking lot off County Road 23 are also closed Friday through Sunday.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Park officials are closing roads on the park’s east side Friday afternoon and evening in order to keep the roads clear for snowplows and emergency responders. 

  • Already closed: Moraine Park campground.
  • Closing at 4 p.m. Friday: Wild Basin Road and the Longs Peak trailhead parking area close
  • Closing at 6 p.m. Friday: U.S. Highway 36 at the Beaver Meadows entrance and U.S. Highway 34 at the Fall River entrance.

The park’s eastern entrances will be closed for the weekend, and road conditions will be assessed throughout the weekend, according to a park news release. The Kawuneeche Visitor Center and Trail Ridge Road on the park’s west side will remain open as conditions allow, park officials said.

Get park updates by following @RockyNPS on Twitter.

Thompson School District

Thompson School District, already on spring break the week of March 14-20, announced that all offices, athletics and activities will be closed or cancelled Monday.

Original story:

The powerful low pressure system expected to drop 1 to 5 feet of snow in Colorado this weekend is moving slower than initially forecast.

As of Friday morning, it was lumbering along in the vicinity of the Las Vegas. However, it remains on track along the southern border of the state to bring heavy snow to the Front Range and even more in the foothills.

Although snow is expected to start falling in the Fort Collins area during the day Saturday, the heaviest snow is expected late Saturday night well into Sunday, with up to 3 inches per hour possible at times.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning from 5 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday for Fort Collins, all of Larimer County, Boulder, the western suburbs of Denver, Denver, Castle Rock and Greeley.

Here are the latest updates:

Fort Collins snow total change

The weather service’s Friday morning snow total forecast lessened the forecast range of snow for the Fort Collins area to 18 to 24 inches. On Thursday, the forecast range was 24 to 30 inches.

The latest models are favoring heavier snow in the foothills into the northern mountains east of the Continental Divide. Estes Park and the Cameron Peak Fire burn scar area are forecast to receive 24 to 30 inches off snow, with the Cameron Peak area possibly receiving up to 5 feet of snow.    

While that will help drought conditions, it will also cause erosion and debris flow concerns.

Snowstorm central: What you need to know

Power outages and tree damage

Poudre Valley REA will update its customers of any power outages from the heavy, wet snow.

It recommends staying up to date with power information these ways:

For one-stop information, visit its website at https://pvrea.coop/outages

For realtime outage updates, download its app here.

Visit its social media sites Facebook page and Twitter feed.

To report outages, use the app or call 800-432-1012. 

Xcel Energy’s storm center website page will have updates. You can report outages at 800-895-1999.

Deciduous trees don’t have leaves now so that will alleviate damage concerns, though the heavy, wet snow could pile up and break some weak branches.

The main concern is evergreen trees. When removing snow from these branches, use a broom and push up on the branches, not down, to safely remove the snow without breaking branches.

Snowstorm travel: Best advice is to stay at home 

Colorado National Guard to be activated

Only emergency and essential travel is encouraged during the height of the storm late Saturday through Sunday.

Still, Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday he will activate about 50 members of the National Guard starting at noon Friday through noon Monday to assist with stranded travelers and search and rescue help during the winter storm.

Colorado avalanche danger rises

Colorado has already seen 11 avalanche deaths this winter, nearly double its annual average, and this storm is sure to lure people into the backcountry.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche watch for the mountains west of Fort Collins and Denver from 6 a.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday.

The center said very dangerous avalanche conditions may develop in the afternoon or overnight Saturday as a large amount off snow piles up on a weak base layer. That could lead to backcountry travelers easily triggering avalanches and increasing avalanche size as snow accumulates several feet deep. Expect dangerous avalanche conditions to last into Monday. 

Snowstorm and COVID-19: Some vaccination sites shut down

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.