Storm blocking flights from YVRA

Several inbound planes unable to land in Hayden today; snow forecast into Friday

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— A Pacific storm named the Pineapple Express is dumping heavy, wet snow on Steamboat Springs, preventing flights from landing at Yampa Valley Regional Airport today and creating sloppy, hazardous conditions on local roadways.

The snow is expected to continue through Friday morning. Up to three feet could fall by then on the slopes of Mount Werner and other mountain elevations in Northwest Colorado, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Colton said today. The Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the region through Thursday afternoon.

“There’s a stream of moisture stretching from Hawaii to Colorado right now,” Colton said. “A lot of people refer to it as the Pineapple Express because of where it’s coming from.”

The weather is creating challenges with visibility at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, assistant airport manager Dean Smith said.

“It’s a mess,” Smith said. “We have our hands full out there today.”

Smith said an American Airlines flight from Dallas and a Continental Airlines flight from Houston landed at YVRA today, but other good news was hard to find by the time he left the airport at about 1:30 p.m.

Smith said Frontier canceled a YVRA flight today while two United flights, a Delta Airlines flight, and an American flight from Chicago were delayed or diverted.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said visibility has been hit or miss today.

"The runway is in good condition. Everything's plowed," he said. "We’re ready for (planes) to be here, but if they can’t see, they can’t land."

West Routt Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Rickman said his agency has not had any requests for ambulance service for car crashes today.

“We haven’t had any calls at all today,” Rickman said at 2:30 p.m. “It’s been very slow for us, which is great.

“People are understanding how bad the roads really are and are taking it slow,” he continued. “That’s what we want to see them do. Prevention is definitely our preferred method.”

The Weather Service’s assessment of the storm Sunday called for 3 to 6 feet on Mount Werner this week, with a cold front that could stop the storm Wednesday, but Colton revised that forecast today.

“In the Steamboat area, you’re on the edge of the deepest moisture plume,” he said. “You’re not going to see the 6 to 8 feet that we’re expecting down toward Crested Butte and those areas. …We’ve had reports already around Crested Butte of 30 to 50 inches in some areas.”

Colton noted that it’s been snowing in Craig and Meeker all day today, while rain has fallen in Aspen and Vail, illustrating the shifting cold fronts’ impacts on whether an area sees rain or snow.

But he said either rain or snow will continue in Steamboat into Friday. Colton said the high-water-content snow often is referred to as Sierra Cement. But he said Northwest Colorado’s temperatures could bring some Champagne Powder.

“You guys are a little bit colder, so you’ll probably get a better quality of snow,” Colton said.

This week’s storm comes in time for the opening of Steamboat Ski Area’s Pony Express lift, which is planned for Friday. Trails accessible by Pony Express, however, are open by hiking before the lift opens, ski area spokesman Mike Lane said.

Lane said as of Sunday, 98 percent of the ski area’s terrain was open.

Holiday vacationers who made it into Steamboat Springs should have plenty of snow to enjoy on that new terrain.

“I’m looking on satellite and moisture is stretched all the way back into the Pacific, so it’s not going to stop,” Colton said.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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