Vail Valley could see heavy snowfall Thursday | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley could see heavy snowfall Thursday

Frigid temperatures expected to accompany the valley's first blast of snow

The forecastHere’s the National Weather Service forecast as of Tuesday evening for Vail through Saturday:Wednesday: Sunny and windy. High of 63, low of 25.

Thursday: 90% chance of heavy snow. High of 35, low of 6.

Friday: Sunny. High of 34, low of 10.

Saturday: Sunny. High of 49, low of 18.

Source: National Weather Service.

EAGLE COUNTY — Snow’s probably coming Thursday, something we’ve known for a few days. That means people are getting ready.

At Action Jackson Auto in EagleVail, Patrick Noll said the shop has seen a jump in business from people either mounting snow tires or buying new ones.

“We’re doing mostly sales,” Noll said. That’s due in large part to the state’s new traction law.

That law requires two-wheel-drive vehicles to have specialized winter tires or traction devices such as Auto Socks in the vehicle from September through May.

All vehicles, including those with all-wheel or four-wheel drive, must have tires with at least 316 of an inch of tread. That’s up from 18-inch tread required under the old law.

Noll said the shop is seeing a lot of tires that aren’t legal under the new law. The shop is prohibited from mounting tires that don’t meet minimum tread depth requirements. 

Plows ready to roll 

In Vail, street crews are preparing for the storm, whatever it might bring.

Street supervisor Charlie Turnbull said the town will have at least six plow trucks ready. 

Turnbull said he doesn’t expect too much trouble in town, even with a prediction of low temperatures as cold as 4 degrees.

“The asphalt’s still warm, so (snow) will melt as it hits,” Turnbull said. 

The town has sand and liquid de-icer on hand, and plow truck drivers will be ready.

On Interstate 70, Bob Wilson of the Colorado Department of Transportation said about 20 plow trucks will be roaming the roads between Dotsero and the top of Vail Pass. Starting Wednesday evening, when the storm is first expected to roll in, drivers will be on “snow shifts.” Drivers will work 12-hour shifts 24 hours a day until the weather clears. 

“When the snow comes, it’s all hands on deck,” Wilson said. 

Those trucks will lay down liquid de-icer before the snow hits, then follow up spreading sand and de-icer and plowing as snow accumulates on the roads. 

Crews at the operations centers at the Hanging Lake tunnels in Glenwood Canyon and the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels straddling Summit and Clear Creek counties play a role in foul-weather response, Wilson said. 

The Hanging Lake center programs the message signs along the interstate. The Eisenhower tunnel center is used for other communications operations.

How much pow? 

Any snowstorm virtually any time of year usually has locals asking one main question: How much powder is coming?

In a Tuesday posting on the OpenSnow website, meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote that the forecast models are predicting between 2 and 4 inches of snow for the central Rockies. The northern Rockies may see between 4 and 8 inches.

The National Weather Service forecast for Vail doesn’t offer a snowfall estimate, but it does call for “heavy” snow on Thursday. 

Whatever precipitation falls will be welcome. The snow is expected to come on the heels of another red flag fire warning, which was issued for Wednesday from noon to 9 p.m. Stage 2 fire restrictions have also been imposed for all of unincorporated Eagle County due to persistent dry, windy conditions. 

After most of the state was listed in some level of drought through much of 2018, the Colorado Climate Center listed the entire state as being drought-free in June. Continued dry weather has changed that assessment. The most recent map showed much of the state as either “abnormally dry” or in “moderate drought.” Virtually all of Eagle County is classified as abnormally dry.

For now, though, it’s time again to find the snow boots, gloves and winter jackets. And it could be time to get those snow tires mounted. 

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.