Piecing together a puzzle…

Friday, January 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Saturday AM update:

Looking at snowfall totals at area resorts . . .

We’ve got anywhere from 9-34″ in the Wasatch. Highest amounts are generally in the Northern Wasatch where 20-25″ fell at Snowbasin, PowMow, and Wolf Mountain. Cottonwoods have seen anywhere from 13-20″. Park City resorts 9-14″. Southern Utah resorts have even seen 10-15″. And the big winner: Sundance! Who is reporting an impressive 34″ of new snow from this storm system. Had a reader report that they arrived at Sundance yesterday morning excited to ski the reported 7″ of snow that fell Thursday night and left the ski resort on Friday afternoon with 15″ of snow to clear off their cars. Their official report seems to verify this story. Not quite sure why they saw so much snow but perhaps some lake enhancement combined with orographic influences of Timp led to snow being loaded on the backside of the mountain. Whatever the reason, Sundance will be boasting the deepest powder in Utah today!

Snow showers will continue today, mostly light, except for heavier showers possible east and southeast of the GSL where enhancement will continue to take place. It is snowing light but steady at my place right now and we’re up to a whopping 3″ storm total. Another disturbance will move into the area tonight through Sunday and could fire up snow showers once again with a few more inches possible in the mountains and even another inch or two in the valley (with more possible under lake enhanced bands). So expect very cold temps and occasional snow for the next 36 hours or so.

Bundle up and enjoy the snow!


Friday evening update:

Snow is continuing in many areas of Northern Utah this evening. Heaviest snow continues to fall on the benches of Weber and Davis counties where snow amounts are already impressive and should only increase tonight with several more inches. Snow is also falling in the northern and eastern portions of the Salt Lake Valley. Light snow is making it up to the higher elevation but snow rates are generally still less than the valleys and benches. Additional weak impulses should keep snow going off and on all night.

Ski resorts are now in the 10-20″ range and we should see the totals increase, especially at Snowbasin, Wolf Mountain and Powder Mountain which will benefit from lake enhanced snow. There’s a chance the lake enhancement could move far enough south to help the Cottonwoods later tonight. Looks like we’ll be in the 1-2 foot range after all with possibly more in places.

The other good news is that latest model runs have showed additional moisture moving into the area tomorrow evening into Sunday that could keep snow showers going in places right on through the weekend. Interestingly, this is the ‘secondary system’ that we mentioned as a possibility earlier this week. Then it looked like it would miss us to the west. Now models reverted to bringing its modest energy over Utah again. This is all good news as starting next week we’ll be in another long, dry spell so the more snow we can get now the better.

Please take lots of photos of the snow where you are and either send them to wasatchsnowforecast@gmail.com or post them to our Facebook page. One of the good things about heavy valley snow events is you get a lot of good user-submitted photos.

Friday Afternoon:

What a crazy storm system this has been… I’ll start by doing my own snow report from my house in Draper. Let’s put it this way, I can still see blades of grass in front yard. When I woke up this morning, I looked outside and read snow reports from the resorts and was immediately discouraged. Then as I started to hear tales of incredible snowfall totals, I started to think, ‘Well maybe this storm wasn’t so much a bust as it was just unusual.’

Here are a few snow reports I’ve seen or have been reported to me (as of 2 PM):

1.5″ Draper
43″ Snotel Parrish Creek (east of Centerville)
2-3 feet at Powder Mountain
2 feet Olympus Cove
2 feet Payson
2 feet in areas of Park City, 15″ in another area
15″ Cottonwood Heights
15″ The Avenues
11″ Big Cottonwood
9″ Alta
6″ Lower Sandy
6-8″ Snowbird

If you map these out… as the NWS did here: http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/slc/precip/precip_map.php … you end up getting this strange map that seems to make no sense whatsoever. Nobody knows for sure why so much more snow fell in the valleys than the Cottonwoods… I’ve seen a couple theories. One put forward by the NWS was that the cold temps led to denser dendrite (snowflake) formation in the highest elevations that didn’t pile up as quickly. I don’t buy that as if you were up in the Cottonwoods today, you noticed breaks in the clouds and periods where it stopped snowing altogether. My personal feeling is that this system, so far, has lacked the mid-level forcing that would push the moisture up into the Cottonwoods. Usually, the Cottonwoods act as a funnel and a perfect topographic slope for orographic enhancement. But with this system, without forcing the mountains of Salt Lake County just acted as a dam and held the best moisture in the valley. Lake enhancement and better orographics can help explain the high snow amounts in Davis and Weber Counties, so not much mystery there. And when I look at the radar from last night, the snowfall in the valley just never seemed to fill in away from the mountains or farther south in the valley where the Oqquirhs helped shadow the precip–which explains why Draper, Riverton, South/West Jordan, etc got so little snow. Overall it’s just interesting… I’ll be curious to see what will happen later today and what the final snowfall totals will be when all is said and done.

Speaking of today and tonight… it’s really a crap shoot who will get the best snow. I’d say if you are seeing good snow now, you can bet that it will continue for a good part of this afternoon, evening, and tonight. Lake effect could enhance snow for the Salt Lake Valley if it gets going tonight. We shall see about that. Will the Cottonwoods/PC see good snow tonight? It’s hard to say, it’s still snowing lightly up there but unless a major lake effect band forms, I don’t see too much change to the status quo. The Cottonwoods are so used to getting the goods that they can afford to see the short end of the stick for once. I’m rambling . . .

The point is that if you didn’t get as much snow as you were hoping for, travel a few miles and you’ll find plenty of snow somewhere else. I’ll update this evening as I slowly regain my sanity and get a feel for what’s going on.

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  • Anonymous

    snow basin got probably 2 ft just today

  • James

    How long will the next dry spell last

    • Really hard to tell but probably at least 10 days… I’ll take a closer look once this current madness is over.

      • James

        I feel like feb will be above average

  • dsg

    Great post, really interesting day – should be a good story to tell someday. Also ramble all you want, love reading your posts, the longer the better!

    • Thank you… felt like today’s storm was making me a bit psychotic trying to figure it all out. Sometimes it’s better to just let it snow where it wants to snow.

  • Jon

    Coming to pow mow from the east on feb 16 for 10 days, hope the dry/wet shift goes wet for all 10 days! Please comment for us easterners as our vacation week gets close. Seeing pow mow get the goods from this storm is so awesome!…..

  • Madsan

    If next week+ is dry..been going to PC for 15 yrs now and have never seen Jan snow totals this low. Ughhh!!

    • Were you here last January?… It was definitely worse then.

      • Madsan

        Yes, end of Jan last year – there was one late storm last Jan that bumped the monthly Alta total to 30+, but I have to imagine the base is better this year due to good Dec 2012. Dec 2011 was awful too and combined with awful Jan 2012, last year was depressing. I was just looking strictly at monthly total, I know this year is already an improvement over last Dec/Jan. Please just tell me there is a chance for one more meaningful snow event before the month is out…

  • Steve

    Definitely curious as to how long the dry spell will last. Looking at the GFS, it looks like a while.