Clyde the elk strolls through the first snow of the season in his pen on the Wyman Museum grounds Thursday.  His caretakers give him a little extra food during the winter months to insulate him with a little extra fat. Clyde also has a thicker coat grown for the winter and lays in the sun to warm up on colder days.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Clyde the elk strolls through the first snow of the season in his pen on the Wyman Museum grounds Thursday. His caretakers give him a little extra food during the winter months to insulate him with a little extra fat. Clyde also has a thicker coat grown for the winter and lays in the sun to warm up on colder days.

Craig sees season's first snowfall

Forecasters anticipate 'near normal' winter

Thursday snow totals:

• Baggs, Wyo. - 5 inches

• Steamboat Springs - 0.5 inches

The National Weather Service did not have a total available for Craig.

Craig residents who looked out their windows Thursday morning saw a scene that's been absent since spring. A few fluffy white flakes were falling from the sky, settling on cars and rooftops around town.

Most of the snow melted by mid-afternoon, but the hills south of Craig still were speckled with snow as temperatures rose above freezing.

Temperatures reached a low of 28 degrees Wednesday night, and a weather system from the northwest prompted the first snow of the fall, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Weather Service forecaster Mike Chamberlain said Steamboat Springs received a half-inch of snow, while Baggs, Wyo., saw as much as five inches.

Chamberlain said there were no current totals for the Craig area, but many cars were covered with a trace to an inch of wet snow Thursday morning.

The snow was concentrated in Northwest Colorado and southern Wyoming and only reached as far West as the continental divide.

Last year, the first snow fell in Craig on Nov. 4, but an early snowfall isn't necessarily indicative of a heavy, snowy winter, Chamberlain said.

"There's no correlation with this event and the rest of the winter," he said. "We'll just have to see how that evolves."

On average, Craig receives 78 inches of snow per year. The month of October averages three inches, and September averages a third of an inch.

Early snowfall could be a symptom of the predicted formation of El Niño, or warmer temperatures in the southern Pacific Ocean.

An El Niño year usually brings heavier snow to southwest Colorado but can have some weak effects in Northwest Colorado.

El Niño can bring more snowfall in early winter, a dry period in the middle of winter and a wet spring.

"It's under debate what (El Niño) could mean," Chamberlain said. "Its effects vary a lot from year to year."

Weather Service forecaster Paul Frisbie said all indicators point to a near normal winter in Northwest Colorado.

He said it is possible that temperatures could be slightly above normal in December, January and February.

As far as precipitation for this winter, Frisbie said there is an equal chance of snowfall being below, equal to or above normal years.

Frisbie said in the coming week to expect daytime highs to rise back up into the 60s, while overnight lows may linger in the 30s and 40s.

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