Time Shifting

Making the change from standard time to daylight time. Either we advanced one hour, or we made the jump to the next ice age.

A lull in the blizzard conditions this morning. Wind at 35 with gusts to 60. Temperature 30°F, wind chill 2°F. A few minutes later, the heavy snow picked up again, making for a blinding snow storm. The black on the road surface is not asphalt, but rather a sheet of ice overlaying gravel. Conditions haven’t changed much since.

Winter Storm

Low clouds, intermittent fog, and intermittent freezing drizzle were the prevailing conditions for much of Friday. All ahead of a winter storm forecasted to bring heavy snow to the Colorado Front Range.

brief appearance of sun at midday Friday (JN Ranch, March 12 2021)

The forecast models, at the start of the week, suggested snowfall amounts measured in feet. By midweek, those projections were pared back into the 10-24 inch range. At week’s end, the snowfall projections were reduced slightly but largely stayed the same. The private AccuWeather® forecast for JN Ranch indicated a snowfall potential in the 10-16 inch range, with temperatures in the upper 20s to low 30s. Icing conditions are expected before the snow begins in earnest.

Preparing for the storm, this week, has been a priority. The JN Ranch, in the middle of calving season, they’ve been moving their cattle to more protected areas of their winter range. Mothers who have not given birth are moved closer to the ranch complex. While bitter cold is not expected, the heavy snowfall potential for most of today, and the potential for blizzard conditions from late tonight through early Monday morning pose the greatest risk to calves. If they become too wet, the shiver effect can become more serious than bitter cold.

At North Ranch, we are substantially less affected by the winter storm. The horses will stay indoors for the duration of the storm. Our preparations involve topping the feedstock supplies in the horse barn. After the storm, it is snow removal from two, close-in paddocks. Removing the snow minimizes the amount of ice and mud on the ground. Both pose the greatest footing hazard for horses.

How cold it will become after the storm will depend how much snow we receive. The coming week is forecasted to be much colder, with daytime temperatures in the upper 30s and the overnights in the lower 20s.

A Winter Storm

… and the calendar reads October, it must mean Halloween is ’round the corner.

In Colorado, history suggests Halloween and an early winter storm are synonymous. They aren’t. If the weather records are consulted, they would say the timing has been coincidental. There have been some very warm Halloweens also. And, a number in between, a classic mid-autumn day and night.

A pair of memorable winter storms leading into Halloween:

  • October 31, 1972 – A heavy snow begins at mid-morning. The accumulation by noon is six inches on the ground, with another 6-8 inches still forecasted. The forecasted low is -20° F/ -28° C, which was easily reached.
  • October 24, 1997 – A blizzard descends on the region before the Friday evening rush. The snow and ice quickly accumulates, bringing traffic on major arterials to a virtual standstill. I-25 is impassable. The blizzard conditions make motorists think twice about abandoning their vehicles. Most opt to stay in their car.

Call it nature’s trick or treat.

Afterwards

Judging by another beautiful day, one wouldn’t have thought Colorado was in the middle of a raging blizzard three days ago.

The priority after the blizzard ended was reopening I-25 between Colorado Springs and Denver. It involved removing 300+ vehicles stranded between Monument Hill and Tomah Road, southbound on the interstate and another 100+ northbound. During the overnight, from Wednesday into Thursday, road crews were able to clear northbound I-25 to provide early access to emergency vehicles only. The interstate reopened late Thursday afternoon.

birds eye view of abandoned vehicles southbound I-25 between Monument Hill past the Greenland Ranch exit towards the Tomah Road exit farther back
photo credit: Douglas County Sheriff’s Department (via AccuWeather)

closer view of abandoned vehicles through the southbound I-25 construction narrows, about a mile south of the Greenland Ranch exit
photo credit: Douglas County Sheriff’s Department (via AccuWeather)

Three days later, many are still trying recover, especially on the eastern plains. One drift across a rural highway, east of Colorado Springs, was so tall, CDOT had to cease trying to clear it from the roadway on Thursday. Numerous ground blizzards in the area covered up what they had cleared away. On Friday, CDOT made headway against the drift with calm wind conditions. They did not give any time estimate on when that rural highway would reopen. The more rural county highways and roads on the eastern plains may have to rely on Mother Nature for their snow removal.

The coming week is forecasted to be calmer.

Blizzard

Another week, another winter storm. Not exactly.

a blizzard cometh

It began as a wind-driven, cold rain before becoming a powerful blizzard working its way through Colorado. Heavy snowfall. Winds in the 40-55 mph range, gusting to 65-70 mph. Zero visibility. Temperatures dropping from the lowers 40s in the pre-dawn hours to the upper 20s at midday. The blizzard is being driven by a strong, cyclonic low-pressure system which rapidly intensified (bombogenesis) on Tuesday. The central pressure of the storm has been measured at 969 millibars, comparable to a Category 1/Category 2 hurricane. Conditions similar to this winter storm last occurred in 1972.

With calving season in progress, the JN Ranch made preparations to shield their cattle and new calves from the weather. The herd was moved into a semi-wooded area on their winter range. Along with repositioned hay and water stock tanks, bedding hay was added to supplement the ground cover to turn the area into a more sheltered, drier one.

cottonwoods bending in the wind

 

a view to the woods

Fortunately, we only received around an inch of snow, most of it wind blown. There were moments visibility was reduced to near zero. With the hospital opting to curtail operations, Laurie and Andrea had a snow day. They used the day to catch up on their homework.

Definitely, a day to stay inside.

iced over

 

A few notables

  • strongest wind gust, statewide, reported at COS airport – 97 mph
  • barometric pressure of the storm center – 969 millibars
  • I-25 between COS and Denver – closed
  • I-70 between Denver and the Kansas stateline – closed
  • I-70 westbound Denver into mountains – closed in spots; extreme avalanche danger
  • stranded on the road – too many