Friday PM update:
Watches have been changed to Warnings in the Wasatch. Snow will start to increase in the Wasatch tonight under moist warm advection flow ahead of the front. The front is speeding up again and we expect it to move through the area from north to south tomorrow morning. It should move through areas north of SLC from 7-9 AM, SLC/Park City/Cottonwoods around 9 AM, and then through the rest of the Southern Wasatch through noon. Very heavy snow will likely accompany the front with snow rates of 2-3″/hr possible and even some embedded lightning. Also, high winds are likely along and ahead of the front. I still expect 3-6″ with the front itself.
Snow intensities will lighten up or even stop all together behind the front before a cold northwest flow sets up in the afternooon and orographics and potential lake effect set up for Saturday evening/night. I’d expect another 6-12″ in this orographic flow through Sunday morning, which would put storm totals at 10-18″. NWS has come back down to earth a bit and is now forecasting 10-20″ for the Wasatch, including the Cottonwoods.
The other concern is wind loading in the morning hours that could create dangerous avalanche conditions. If I were you, I’d try to stay out of the backcountry tomorrow, or at least consult the Utah Avalanche Center before going.
If you are looking for the best place to ski this weekend, you might consider Snowbasin or PowMow on Saturday and the Cottonwoods on Sunday. Tomorrow’s front will move through the north first, so ‘Basin and PowMow will get more snow early in the day, and the winds should die down quicker there. The Cottonwoods will benefit from good orographics and hopefully some lake effect on Saturday night and should be money on Sunday. Just my two cents . . .
Tuesday storm still looking pretty good!
See you in the morning! WSF
After all the bad news of the last couple days, we’ve been on a 24-hour streak of good trends in weather models. One of the weak impulses we mentioned yesterday that would move through today is currently bringing mostly light snow to the Wasatch Front. Snow is falling in the Cottonwoods right now that will create a nice fresh layer on top of what they had yesterday. Up north, it looks like it’s snowing at least at Snowbasin, where decent orographics are in play. Today should be a good, if not great, ski day though I expect the snow showers to start clearing out later this morning.
Tonight, winds will be on the increase throughout the area, with gusts on the ridge tops approaching 100 mph by tomorrow morning. This could cause a lot of wind loading of the snow that fell yesterday and today and could put several lifts on wind hold during the morning hours. The front is timing for a little bit later than earlier expected and will likely move through the area around mid-day or early afternoon. This will bring a brief period of heavy snow with a quick 3-6″ possible along the front. Then there might be a break in the action as the unstable cold pool aloft moves into the area. By evening and Saturday night, orographically and lake-enhanced snow showers will become widespread and possibly heavy. To me, I would guess this will add another 6-12″ in the Wasatch with locally great amounts possible downwind of the GSL. Roughly, that would put snow totals at about 10-18″ with more possible in areas like the Cottonwoods.
NWS totals are slightly more optimistic. Winter Storm Watch highlights are suggesting 1-2+ feet. The NWS Cottonwoods forecast is currently standing at 15-28″. I think there is potential for that much snow especially if a good lake effect band develops, but we were reminded recently that you can’t forecast based on potential and the most honest forecast is to look at the most likely scenario instead.
Here is an updated look at the snowfall totals for this system from the WRF model that we posted yesterday:
As you can see, there is an even more vigorous band of heavy snowfall southeast of the GSL than we saw yesterday. Still, lake effect snow is incredibly difficult to forecast, so I don’t want to depend on its formation too much. Either way, Sunday is going to be a great powder day throughout the Wasatch.
The other bit of good news is the Monday night/Tuesday system continues to look stronger again. Due to the inconsistencies in the models, I’m still going to take a cautious approach, but it looks like 4-8″ of additional snowfall will be possible from this system.
Beyond that it looks like we’ll have at least 5 days of quiet weather as ridging returns. There are some suggestions it could get active again the second week of March. We’ll see . . .