Trees are reflected in the Yampa River early Wednesday morning west of Highway 13. The first snow hit Northwest Colorado leaving several inches on the ground with snow continuing throughout the day.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Trees are reflected in the Yampa River early Wednesday morning west of Highway 13. The first snow hit Northwest Colorado leaving several inches on the ground with snow continuing throughout the day.

Less amount of snowfall expected this winter

Not like last time

photo

Leaves at Loudy-Simpson Park sit below a small amount of ice in the pond.

Craig resident Joe Byrd said he was glad to see snow falling, if only to get the county's big game herds moving around to where hunters can find them.

Other residents may not see the sudden onset of winter as such a good thing. The local temperature dropped from an average high of 50 degrees Monday to a daytime temperature of 28 degrees Wednesday (but the National Weather Services reported it "felt like" 19 degrees).

The cold weather brought the year's first lasting snowfall, as well, but the National Weather Service reported it was only a few inches in Craig. The heaviest falls in the area were on Rabbit Ears Pass, which had 4 to 6 inches.

However, residents dreading a repeat of last year's record winter may want to hold off on buying extra snow shovels, said Joe Ramey, a meteorologist and forecaster with the Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Last winter was the "wettest La Niña ever recorded, and the second snowiest year in Steamboat ever since records began in 1908," Ramey said.

He doesn't expect this winter to match the previous one, in part because climate patterns in the southern Pacific Ocean look stable, or, "as close to normal as we know," Ramey said.

That means this winter will not be affected by a La Niña or an El Niño.

However, north Pacific ocean waters are colder than normal, and the combination of normal southern waters with cold northern waters has created some of the most extreme weather that Colorado has ever seen.

There were 10 years in the past 50 that match current climate conditions, Ramey said, and among those, two had some of the heaviest snowfall recorded, and two were some of the driest.

"That indicates we tend toward extreme weather in this weather pattern," Ramey said, adding the last time this happened was the winter of 2001-02, when meager snowfall helped create one of the worst fire seasons in Colorado history.

That also was the year when Gov. Bill Owens said the whole state was burning.

Ramey said current forecasts don't show anything drastic coming this way. The next storm on the horizon should hit this weekend, but temperatures could climb high enough for rainfall instead of snow.

There isn't anything else in the immediate future, but Ramey added that in past years with the same conditions, the Yampa Valley area usually had above average snowfall in December and January, with relatively little during the rest of winter.

Of course, when forecasting weather more than 10 days out, there are no actual storms to track, and meteorologists are trying to decipher wind patterns and ocean temperatures and other markers that can change suddenly.

In effect, nothing is certain.

"What happens usually differs from what we initially thought," Ramey said.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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