‘Blockbuster blizzard’ expected to hammer Denver area with feet of snow this weekend

Story Highlights

  • The storm could snarl travel, damage trees and knock out power.
  • The snow and cold will feel "all the more shocking" due to the recent springlike weather.
  • Further east and south, the same storm is also forecast to produce flooding rain and several days' worth of severe thunderstorms.

One of the biggest snowstorms in years, perhaps decades, is forecast to blast the Denver metro area with several feet of snow this coming weekend. “The storm has the potential to rank among the biggest on record in Denver,” AccuWeather meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.

The storm could snarl travel, damage trees and knock out power not only in Denver, but also in other parts of Colorado, as well as in southern Wyoming and western Nebraska, Weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said.

The storm should be a long-duration event from Friday through Sunday that could result in snowfall totals nearing 2 feet in Denver and piling as high as 3 feet in places west of Denver, such as Boulder and Fort Collins, AccuWeather said.

Heavy snow will stretch north into Wyoming and Nebraska, where as much as five feet could fall in some spots, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue, who called the looming storm a “blockbuster blizzard.” 

Snowfall rates could approach 3-4 inches per hour in some areas, along with thundersnow, Maue said.

The snow and cold will feel “all the more shocking” because of the recent springlike weather in places such as Denver, AccuWeather said, where temperatures of 70 degrees were recorded earlier this week.

A person crosses the barely visible railroad tracks that go through the Colorado State University campus on March 18, 2003, as snow continued to fall on Fort Collins, Colorado, during that historic snowstorm. (Photo: The Coloradoan, Fort Collins, Colo.)

The heavy, wet snow could cause power outages and “nearly impossible travel conditions in spots,” the National Weather Service said. Roadways such as “I-25 and I-80 may get shut down late Saturday into Sunday,” Rayno said.

Winter storm watches have been issued and include southeast Wyoming, northeast and north-central Colorado and western Nebraska, which will soon be shifted to winter storm or even blizzard warnings.  

The three biggest storms on record in Denver all had over two feet of snow, which remains a possibility with this storm, AccuWeather said.

Some locations could see their biggest snowstorm on record, the Capital Weather Gang said.

“Make all the necessary preparations to protect life, property, livestock and pets,” the weather service in Cheyenne, Wyoming, said. “Expect extended periods of whiteout conditions, low visibilities and possible power outages.”

Updated storm total snow map! 15-25″ expected across urban corridor with up to 30″ in Boulder and Fort Collins. 2 to 4 feet of snow in the foothills. Lower amounts west of Continental Divide and east of DIA. #COwxpic.twitter.com/ykTuxhsuiC

The storm has been named Winter Storm Xylia by the Weather Channel, though no other forecasting outlets are using that name. 

Farther east and south, the same storm is also forecast to produce flooding rain and several days’ worth of severe thunderstorms in other parts of the Plains and Mississippi Valley, Erdman said.

AccuWeather forecasters said severe weather was possible from Friday through Sunday in the south-central U.S., and over 20 million Americans are in the threat zone, including the bigger cities of Oklahoma City, Dallas and Little Rock, Arkansas. Large hail and strong winds are the main threats, according to the Storm Prediction Center.

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