Meteorologist on massive Vail Valley storm: ‘You’re getting slammed!’
Epic storm delights skiers, snarls traffic, closes local schools
- Clear your driveways, parking areas and sidewalks.
- Don’t plow snow into the street and don’t block fire hydrants. Private plow companies pushing snow into the street could be fined.
- For pedestrian safety, the town prohibits on-street or shoulder parking. This includes construction vehicles. Automobiles may be ticketed and/or towed if left on town streets or shoulders during snow removal operations.
- Remove snow and ice from around gas meters and utility shut offs. Snow and Ice accumulation can cause damage to gas meters and valves, potentially causing leaks and allowing gas to build up in confined spaces, basements and dwelling spaces. If you smell gas, evacuate your home and call 911.
- And try not to build snow sculptures too close to the street.
It’s official. This storm is huge. The people who keep track of things like snow are pretty darned excited about it.
“You’re getting slammed!” exclaimed Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
This, Sanders explained Friday, is good.
The good stuff will continue for the next couple of days. Friday could see another 10-12 inches before a break in the storm Saturday. However, Saturday night the precipitation party continues with another front that will bring 2-4 inches, the National Weather Service reports.
Not that we dwell on this sort of thing, but we’re getting way more snow than Aspen from this storm. They’re on the edge of this storm, Sanders explained.
Why we’re in the eye
Weather patterns in this region generally run west to east. That means the air is being forced up the slopes to higher altitudes and into a relatively narrow valley as it heads toward Vail Pass.
“When you’re forcing air up the slopes of the divide, it has nowhere to go but up,” Sanders said.
As weather fronts climb up, snow falls down, Sanders patiently explained.
Big snow, big crowds
“This is a truly historic storm,” Greg Johnson, Vice President of Mountain Operations at Vail Mountain said. “We’re reporting 19 inches in the past 24 hours, but we’re seeing more than 36 inches of snow over many parts of the mountain, and Patrol headquarters has reported 31 inches from yesterday, through this afternoon. The snow hasn’t let up all day, so we’re expecting great conditions throughout the weekend and into next week.”
The massive storm apparently also attracted massive crowds. Social media posts indicated that liftlines at the bottom of Vail Mountain were enormous, stretching further than many have ever seen as hundreds of people waited to get back up the mountain for more powder turns.
Still, skiers said there was lots of giggling amid all the work that comes with a storm this size.
“Storms like this aren’t very common here in the Vail Valley,” Beth Howard, Vail Mountain COO said. “The whole team came together to get us moving this morning – it’s a herculean effort to dig out lifts and ensure terrain is safe when there is this much snow. I’m so proud of our entire team for getting us open on time this morning.”
P.E. is now Powder Education
The storm closed schools around the region, including schools in Eagle County. Even Lake County Schools closed Friday, one of a handful of school closures since classes opened about the same time the mines did in the mid-1800s.
Among the First World problems some Vail Valley parents dealt with is that kids had ski and snowboard gear locked in schools, which had been closed. Understandably, parents wanted to enjoy the epic powder day with their beloved offspring. To do that, they had to get into the locked school to retrieve their kids’ gear.
That meant someone from the school district had to go to the school to let them in so they could load up their kids, who did not have school Friday, before they could head to the mountain.
While that might be a First World Problem rivaled only by Bluetooth trouble, some people still complained about it on social media.
Still, a quick look at the school district’s social media pages shows lots more hearts and likes than whiners and complainers.
“We’ll always come down on the side of safety for the students,” said Dan Dougherty, the chief communications officer for Eagle County Schools.
About half of the local students arrive at school by bus, and those buses run from Red Cliff to Bond, Dougherty said.
CDOT, towns hammering away
Vail was hammered with nearly 30 inches of snowfall with more on the way. I-70 reopened midday Friday over Vail Pass after an 18-hour closure.
“The town’s snowplow drivers are doing all they can to keep the streets safe for travel, including clearing snow from intersections to improve visibility,” the town said in a Friday morning announcement.
Due to road conditions and increasing safety issues, the town of Vail will be closed its non-essential offices at 3 p.m. Friday.
Colorado Department of Transportation crews are scrambling to keep Interstate 70 traffic flowing.
“Colorado winters are often unpredictable, as we all know, and we experienced it first-hand this week. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we’re doing our part in keeping the traveling public and our crews safe,” CDOT’s Jared Fiel said.
For updates on the winter storm and road conditions, visit http://www.ecemergency.org. Motorists are advised to avoid traveling until conditions improve.