Famous Last Words

Published Sunday 1/3/21 at 7:45 am

Interestingly enough, the last optimistic model run I have seen in 4 or 5 days was the last one I posted, last Tuesday. You remember that one, the one I said was “maybe too perfect”. Clearly, I jinxed the stormy pattern, I hope nobody bought a new snowblower!

What we are left with has been a very stormy pattern in the northwest US sending storms around us. If we are lucky a couple of pieces of energy may drop far enough south to produce some snow in the northern portion of our forecast area (Telluride). This pattern is not good for producing snow in our areas that rely on southerly and southwesterly flow.

When will it change? I can’t answer that question with any degree of confidence right now because there is very little agreement among the weather models. One of the problems is when you get these big storms coming into our north they tend to have a lot of waves of energy and disturbances rotating around them. Some of those disturbances break away from the main energy source and dissipate or they go through a strengthening process and become a new separate storm. As I have said before, many times, the models do not handle “leftovers” very well.

When I look at the model family members of the Euro and the GFS there is very little agreement among the 51 model members that make up the Euro model or the 30 members that make up the GFS model as to when we will get some meaningful precipitation.  In other words, not only is there widespread disagreement among the various models, but internally, the models disagree with themselves.

There are more parameters to look at in the models than just the precipitation output. One of the things that I track is a “Strat Warm” or a Stratospheric Warming event. We are in the middle of one right now. These happen every winter and they are responsible for the southward movement of the (dreaded) Polar Vortex. I am not going to get too deep in the weeds with this, but the end result is that these events can and do alter the position of the polar jet. Many times they force the polar jet into southern California which can lead to an AR (atmospheric river) event. We love those! These events are a process that can take a couple of weeks or longer to pan out.

As I said there are a couple of chances of snow in the next week from the Silverton area north to Telluride and Ouray. At the moment it looks like very little if any snow will accumulate, but I will do another update before the first snow chances arrive late Tuesday.

If you are a new follower, keep in mind that with me no news is not good news, it is not bad news it is just no news. Thanks for following!

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Nice Storm!

Published at 7:45 am Tuesday

Overall, it is difficult to complain about this storm. I have not gotten a lot of reports yet this morning but most of the ones I have gotten have been positive. Most of the mid-elevation areas ended up with a storm total of 8 to 15 inches! Lower elevations below 7,200 feet, especially northwest of Durango, did very well. Telluride ended up with a total of 9 inches, they may get a little more today. Wolf Creek has a storm total so far of 25 inches and they are reporting heavy snow. Will they hit my 30 inches? Purgatory managed to bust out a storm total of 19 inches! I still have not heard from Vallecito or Pagosa.

For those of you wondering why the Purgatory snow stake is not representative of their reported totals, join the club. I have asked them this in the past and they tell me that the snow stake is not the location where they do their official measurement. Most of us know this to be the case from being there and looking at the snow stake online, then looking around at what is actually accumulating.

Things are going to be quiet for the next few days. There will be a couple of systems that will pass far to our south and north, some of the energy may generate a few flurries across the mountains but nothing significant in the short term.

The morning surface map just came out (a little earlier than normal). It shows a shortwave trough to our north (circled in black).

The models are forecasting a couple to a few more inches in the mountains of high ratio snow, mostly around Telluride and Wolf Creek, with lighter amounts elsewhere.

Here is the morning WPC 2.5km model run

And here is the NAM 3km run

Long term models are starting to come together on a flip back to a stormier pattern beginning January 5th or 6th (next Tuesday or Wednesday) and lasting until January 10th or 11th. During that time models show several storms tracking across our area with some significant snow. Here is what that looks like on the GFS model. This is beginning Monday night the 4th and ending January 12th.

This is a very optimistic scenario, maybe too perfect. The blue blobs are areas of anomalously low, low pressure. In some cases, you will see gray and even green cores in these low-pressure systems, indicating very strong storm cores.

We all know a lot can change between now and then, so it is too early to buy a new snowblower. On the other hand, last week the model runs ended up pretty accurate with this storm.

To my new Facebook followers, I love to hear from people so feel free to reach out. I am rarely on Facebook so I created this blue link at the end of every post. This is the best way to get a hold of me on a timely basis. If you have a time-sensitive question, don’t send it through Facebook, use this direct link to my email.

Thanks for all of the snow reports, thanks for following, and thanks for supporting the page.

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Afternoon Update

Published at 3:45 pm Monday

This is my least favorite part of a storm. There is a large area of precipitation to our west in southern Utah and northern Arizona. Presumably, the jet will come across our area and enhance that precipitation and work it into our area. It is not always that easy.

As I said this morning, it is very difficult, to impossible, to determine where more intense bands of snow will show up, or if they will show up.

The models under forecasted the amount of snow we got last night and this morning. It turns out that after our overrunning event, a shortwave trough set up over the area and kept snow accumulating in many locations until around noon.

NOAA’s surface maps lag by as long as 5 hours, so you never actually know what is happening. Now I am finally able to look back and see what was happening at that time.

Here was what the surface map looked like at 8 am. Unfortunately, it was around noon before I saw it. The shortwave trough is the brown dotted line I circled in black.

This explains the increased snowfall this morning.

Now, as evening approaches when the jet max is supposed to be moving into the area, here is where the main precipitation is located.

Here is the latest model guidance for additional precipitation.

If I were 100% confident with this model run, and I am not, I would be forecasting the following additional amounts of 12 to 15  inches for Wolf Creek with possibly 20 inches if everything goes perfectly. 4 to 8 additional inches could fall at Purgatory, Ouray, Silverton, and Pagosa. Most mid-elevations could see 2 to 5  additional inches, the exception being the Forest Lakes to Vallecito and Lemon areas where 5 to 10 more inches are possible. I still think another 5 to 10 inches at Telluride is possible especially after the wind changes directions.

The takeaway is that my confidence is very low in the forecast. It is not because I feel strongly in one way or another. I have seen this set up before result in a huge amount of snow, and I have also seen the precipitation find a way to mostly miss our area.

Overall, most of the models are favoring the eastern portion of our forecast area which is why I have higher amounts for Forest Lakes and Vallecito.

Next Update early Tuesday morning. Thanks for the great reports today. Keep them up! Thanks for following and supporting the site!

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Morning Model Update

Published at 8:15 am Monday

The majority of the reports I have gotten from people have been around 3 inches. The North Valley was closer to 4 to 6 inches overnight. Purgatory reported 6 inches, Wolf Creek reported 6 inches.

The main concern today will be temperatures between 6,500 and 7,000 feet. This will of course limit snow accumulations in lower elevations and some mid-elevation locations.

I am not confident enough with what I am seeing in the models to change any of my storm totals from yesterday. As I mentioned they were conservative. I might be too low for Purgatory, but I am pretty confident Wolf Creek will add another 18 to 24 inches by Wednesday morning.

Here is the morning run from the WPC 2.5km model.

Here is the NAM 3km model.

Between 3 pm and 6 pm, the strongest part of the upper jet will move over our area from west to east. This jet streak will slowly move through for 12 to 18 hours, departing the easternmost portion of our forecast area (Wolf Creek) between 9 am and noon Tuesday.

Here is the jet forecast between now and Tuesday at noon. The warmer colors of yellow, orange and red depict the strongest portion of the jet.

When this happens there are usually bands of heavy snow that develop over the area. Where exactly that happens is nearly impossible to determine, and the models do a poor job predicting these bands. Bottom line, more potential upside surprises by tomorrow morning.

Thanks for all of the reports, I read every one of them but I don’t have time to reply to all of them. Remember to let me know where you are reporting the snow from. Also, after you report it is a good idea to write it down, then clear the area so your next report will be more accurate. After about 4 inches of accumulation, snow starts to compact which will affect your totals.

Next Update this afternoon. Thanks for following!

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Early Morning Update

Published at 5:30 am Monday

Here are the latest Warnings and Advisories. Remember the wording is everything when you read these. The Durango and Pagosa area’s advisory is calling for 3 to 6 inches additional snow. The Silverton-Rico Warning is calling for storm totals (including what has already fallen) of 8 to 18 inches. The Telluride Advisory is for 5 to 10 inches between 5 pm tonight and 5 pm Tuesday. The Wolf Creek Warning is calling for 1 to 2 feet of additional snow.

By the way, the main low pressure is just now coming onshore in Central California.

COZ022-023-282145-
/O.CON.KGJT.WW.Y.0029.000000T0000Z-201229T1600Z/
ANIMAS RIVER BASIN-SAN JUAN RIVER BASIN-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF DURANGO, BAYFIELD, IGNACIO,
AND PAGOSA SPRINGS
305 AM MST MON DEC 28 2020

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 AM MST
TUESDAY ABOVE 6500 FEET…

* WHAT…PERIODS OF SNOW ABOVE 6500 FEET. ADDITIONAL SNOW
ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 6 INCHES WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS
ALONG THE BASE OF THE SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS.

* WHERE…SAN JUAN RIVER BASIN AND ANIMAS RIVER BASIN.

* WHEN…UNTIL 9 AM MST TUESDAY.

* IMPACTS…PLAN ON ICY TO SNOWPACKED ROAD CONDITIONS DURING THE MORNING AND NIGHT-TIME PERIODS.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

COZ019-282145-
/O.CON.KGJT.WS.W.0013.000000T0000Z-201230T0000Z/
SOUTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF SILVERTON, RICO, AND HESPERUS
305 AM MST MON DEC 28 2020

…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 5 PM MST
TUESDAY…

* WHAT…MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW AT TIMES THROUGH TUESDAY
AFTERNOON. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 8 TO 16 INCHES WEST OF
HIGHWAY 550…12 TO 18 WITH WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS EAST OF
HIGHWAY 550. WINDS GUSTING AS HIGH AS 45 MPH ABOVE 10000 FEET.

* WHERE…SOUTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS.

* WHEN…UNTIL 5 PM MST TUESDAY.

* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TO IMPOSSIBLE. PATCHY
BLOWING SNOW COULD SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE VISIBILITY.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

COZ018-282145-
/O.CON.KGJT.WW.Y.0029.201229T0000Z-201230T0000Z/
NORTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF TELLURIDE, OURAY, AND LAKE CITY
305 AM MST MON DEC 28 2020

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 5 PM THIS
AFTERNOON TO 5 PM MST TUESDAY…

* WHAT…SNOW EXPECTED. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 5 TO 10 INCHES WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS UP TO A FOOT. WINDS GUSTING AS HIGH AS 45 MPH ABOVE 10000 FEET.

* WHERE…NORTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS.

* WHEN…FROM 5 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 5 PM MST TUESDAY.

* IMPACTS…TRAVEL WILL BE DIFFICULT AT TIMES DUE TO ICY AND
SNOWPACKED CONDITIONS. PATCHY BLOWING SNOW COULD SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE VISIBILITY.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

350 AM MST MON DEC 28 2020

COZ067-068-281900-
/O.CON.KPUB.WS.W.0012.000000T0000Z-201230T0000Z/
UPPER RIO GRANDE VALLEY/EASTERN SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS BELOW
10000 FEET-EASTERN SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS ABOVE 10000 FEET-
350 AM MST MON DEC 28 2020

…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 5 PM MST
TUESDAY…

* WHAT…HEAVY SNOW. ADDITIONAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 2
FEET WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE, EXCEPT 7 TO 14
INCHES FOR THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY. WINDS GUSTING AS HIGH AS 45
MPH.

* WHERE…EASTERN SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS ABOVE 10000 FEET AND UPPER  RIO GRANDE VALLEY BELOW 10000 FEET.

* WHEN…UNTIL 5 PM MST TUESDAY.

* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TO IMPOSSIBLE. PATCHY
BLOWING SNOW COULD SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE VISIBILITY. THE
HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS COULD IMPACT THE MORNING AND EVENING
COMMUTES WITH SNOW PACKED ROADS AND POOR VISIBILITY.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The models underestimated the snowfall overnight. It was an overrunning event. It happens when a warmer moist airmass goes over a cold dense air mass. In our region, it usually falls as snow but can sometimes lead to an icing event as you see in the south every winter.

If you are in the mid and lower elevations the precipitation is going to be on and off, until it picks up again later today. The snow level should be between 6,500 and 7,000 feet before lowering to all elevations tonight.

I will Update when the morning high-resolution models generate. I am anxious to hear everyone’s overnight totals. For now, no change to forecasted totals. Thanks for following!

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Evening Storm Update New Advisories Issued

Published at 8 pm

Everything seems to be coming together. Light intermittent snow has already broken out in many areas.

I will wait until the morning to modify my forecasts if needed but here is the latest from the NWS.

COZ022-023-281100-
/O.EXB.KGJT.WW.Y.0029.201228T0250Z-201229T1600Z/
ANIMAS RIVER BASIN-SAN JUAN RIVER BASIN-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF DURANGO, BAYFIELD, IGNACIO,
AND PAGOSA SPRINGS
750 PM MST SUN DEC 27 2020

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 AM MST TUESDAY ABOVE 6500 FEET…

* WHAT…PERIODS OF SNOW ABOVE 6500 FEET. ADDITIONAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 8 INCHES WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS ALONG THE BASE OF THE SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS.

* WHERE…ANIMAS RIVER BASIN AND SAN JUAN RIVER BASIN.

* WHEN…UNTIL 9 AM MST TUESDAY.

Hmmm… Sounds familiar

COZ018-281100-
/O.CON.KGJT.WW.Y.0029.201229T0000Z-201230T0000Z/
NORTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF TELLURIDE, OURAY, AND LAKE CITY
750 PM MST SUN DEC 27 2020

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 5 PM MONDAY TO 5 PM MST TUESDAY…

* WHAT…SNOW EXPECTED. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 5 TO 10 INCHES WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS UP TO A FOOT. WINDS GUSTING AS HIGH AS 40 MPH.

* WHERE…NORTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS.

* WHEN…FROM 5 PM MONDAY TO 5 PM MST TUESDAY.

* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT, ESPECIALLY OVER MOUNTAIN PASSES. PATCHY BLOWING SNOW COULD SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE VISIBILITY. 

Hmmm…

Next Update tomorrow morning, thanks for following!

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Afternoon Storm Update

Posted at 1 pm Sunday

Clouds and moisture are moving into the area. Snow has been falling in Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. That precipitation could move into our area as early as this afternoon, but definitely by late tonight.

This pre-frontal precipitation will serve a great purpose by moistening up the atmosphere before the strong system comes onshore very late tonight and starts slowly moving our way tomorrow.

Here is where the storm was as of 8 am this morning. You can see the large area of low pressure off of the Northern California Coast.

The models are doing exactly what I hoped they would, they are trending up as the storm approaches.

The high-resolution models are really cranking up the amounts in areas above 8,500 feet. Overall there is a pretty decent agreement right now for the higher elevations.

Here is this morning’s high-resolution WPC model, it has not changed since I posted the earlier run this morning.

Here is the other high-resolution model I use the NAM 3km.

 

Here is the latest GFS.

Here is the latest Euro.

 

My forecasted amounts have a wide range at the moment but I will tighten them up tomorrow. These totals are tonight thru Wednesday morning.

Wolf Creek: 20 to 30 inches

Purgatory, Telluride, Mayday, Silverton(in town), North Vallecito, Pagosa Springs, Durango Hills at or above 8,000 feet and areas from Glacier Club to Purgatory: 8 to 12 inches.

All mid-elevation areas above 7,300 feet in La Plata County: 5 to 9 inches.

Ridgway to Ouray: 3 to 8 inches.

The greater Durango area between 6,500 feet and 7,200 feet, Mancos and Northern Ignacio areas: 2 to 5 inches.

Cortez and Aztec: 0 to 2 inches.

As I said I will tighten up the forecasts in the morning. I would say that with the exception of Wolf Creek, most of these forecasts are still on the conservative side and the potential exists for some upside surprises.

The heaviest snow will fall later on Monday for the southern part of the forecast area. Overnight Monday and Tuesday the heaviest snow should fall for the northern portion of the forecast area.

If I see anything worth mentioning in the afternoon forecast package from the NWS I will briefly post later today.

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The First Set Of Winter Storm Watches Have Been Issued

Published at 5:30 am Sunday

The first set of winter highlights were just issued this morning for the Southwest San Juans and the Eastern San Juans (Wolf Creek). Don’t worry Northwest San Juans you too will see highlights issued because you will get some very dry, high ratio snow as the system starts to move out of the area very early on Tuesday morning.

URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO
324 AM MST SUN DEC 27 2020

COZ019-272200-
/O.NEW.KGJT.WS.A.0012.201228T0300Z-201230T0600Z/
SOUTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF SILVERTON, RICO, AND HESPERUS
324 AM MST SUN DEC 27 2020

…WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY EVENING…

* WHAT…MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW RATES POSSIBLE AT TIMES THIS EVENING THROUGH LATE TUESDAY. TOTAL SNOW OF 12 TO 24 INCHES  POSSIBLE WITH THE HIGHER END AMOUNTS MAINLY EAST OF HIGHWAY 550. WINDS COULD GUST AS HIGH AS 45 MPH ABOVE TIMBERLINE.

* WHERE…SOUTHWEST SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS.

* WHEN…FROM THIS EVENING THROUGH TUESDAY EVENING.

* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BECOME VERY DIFFICULT AT TIMES.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…UNCERTAINTY STILL EXISTS ON FINAL SNOW TOTALS AS WARMER AIR WILL BE PULLED INTO THE SYSTEM LIMITING SNOW RATIOS ON MONDAY.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PUEBLO CO
400 AM MST SUN DEC 27 2020

COZ067-068-271900-
/O.NEW.KPUB.WS.A.0013.201228T0600Z-201230T0600Z/
UPPER RIO GRANDE VALLEY/EASTERN SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS BELOW
10000 FEET-EASTERN SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS ABOVE 10000 FEET-
400 AM MST SUN DEC 27 2020

…WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM TONIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY NIGHT…

* WHAT…MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW POSSIBLE. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 TO 12 INCHES IN THE UPPER RIO GRANDE VALLEY AND 12 TO 26 INCHES IN THE EASTERN SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS (WOLF CREEK PASS), WITH LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS, POSSIBLE. WINDS COULD GUST AS HIGH AS 40 MPH.

* WHERE…UPPER RIO GRANDE VALLEY AND EASTERN SAN JUAN MOUNTAINS.

* WHEN…FROM TONIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY NIGHT.

* IMPACTS…TRAVEL COULD BE VERY DIFFICULT TO IMPOSSIBLE. THE HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS COULD IMPACT THE MORNING OR EVENING COMMUTE.

I have seen a bit of a boost in the precipitation output from most of the models over the last 24 hours. The only morning run that is out so far is NOAA’s WPC (Weather Prediction Center) 2.5km high-resolution model and it is very encouraging. This is a blended model, meaning it takes data from several other models and combines them to provide a forecast.

The overnight individual models were not quite as generous, but either way, it looks like I will be boosting my forecast totals, especially in areas at or above 7,200 feet. I will dig into the details in my afternoon Update. BTW for those who emailed me about travel, I will be following up with you this morning.

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Upcoming Storm Update

Published Saturday at 8:45 am

I hope everyone had a great day yesterday! Since very little had changed with the models I decided to give myself the day off.

I am very confident that this system will start to change our weather beginning Sunday night. Here is the approximate location of the system right now, I circled it in red.

The blue is indicating that the area is an anomaly of low pressure, it does not indicate surface temperatures.

The models continue to support the idea that it will continue to the south until it comes onshore late Sunday on the Central California coastline. This will flatten our ridge of high pressure and send some moisture in zonal flow to our area late Sunday night into Monday morning.

My Take

Some of the 550 and 160 pass areas may not stop snowing until late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. There may be a few lulls and periods of lighter snow during this time. This is not looking like the massive system it was several days ago. It does look like the mountains will get 8 to 20 inches over the 3 day period and I do expect a Winter Storm Watch will be issued within the next 24 hours.

The mid-elevations should see less snow, and a rain-snow mix is possible below 7,200 feet on Monday with rain below 6,500 feet. Early indications look like 2 to 6 inches for the mid-elevations with 3 inches or less for lower elevations.  Monday night the heaviest precipitation should arrive and snow should fall across the entire forecast area.

Low elevation precipitation is still a challenge in the forecast. This is disappointing but we will take whatever we can get. I don’t have a lot of faith in what I am seeing on the weather model maps right now so I will hold off from posting them today. I feel like we will see a bump up in precipitation amounts as the storm comes inland.

If anyone is traveling mid-week to next weekend and you have to go through the midwest, beware of this storm as it exits Colorado. This storm is going to blow up into a major blizzard and freezing rain event which could potentially lead to portions of I-90, I-80, and I -70 being closed.

Next Update tomorrow, I will post early and in the afternoon. Thanks for following!

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A Stormy Set Up For The End Of The Month

Published at Noon on Thursday

The weather models are still advertising a decent storm coming in on Monday. Some of the models are showing some prefrontal precipitation as early as Sunday night.

The storm should make landfall late Sunday on the Central California coast. I would not be surprised to see the models slow this progression down over the next 24 to 48 hours of model runs.

Our best-case scenario would be for the storm to stay intact with most of the precipitation coming Monday night.

The GFS is an outlier model for its low precipitation amounts in the lower elevations. The other models are looking pretty good this time.

GFS

German

The Canadian model almost always overproduces precipitation in the lower elevations because of its low resolution and difficulty dealing with the local terrain.

Canadian

European

The WPC (NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center) has a gridded forecast model of its own.

WPC 2.5km

This is the statewide view

Here is the local view from a different model provider.

This high-resolution model above does a great job depicting terrain. You can see the difference from DRO to Durango Downtown. It also separates Pagosa from Wolf Creek. You also see Silverton with the slightly lower amounts in north-central San Juan County.

Next Update Friday, thanks for following!

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