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Fire to snow: What to expect from Colorado's wild weather through Wednesday.

An early snow along Interstate 25 and across metro Denver through tonight.
Posted at 12:34 PM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 07:02:32-04

What a difference a day makes - especially in Colorado!

Denver tied a record for the number of 90-degree days in a single year Monday, before a very strong cold front moved in bringing snow and freezing temperatures to much of the mountains, Front Range Foothills and I-25 Corridor.

By Tuesday morning, a mix of light rain and snow dampened roads along Interstate 25 and across metro Denver. Through the afternoon and evening, a transition to full snow with accumulations of 3 to 6 inches likely.

The main snow accumulation will be on vegetation and elevated surfaces, such as bridges. Tree damage and scattered power outages are also a risk this tonight.

The high country has had heavier snow activity, with the heaviest amounts falling from near Rocky Mountain National Park and Kremmling, up to Wyoming.

Temperatures on Monday reached the low-to-mid 90s, hitting 90 by 12:15 p.m., making it the 73rd day that 2020 has seen temperatures of 90 degrees or more – tying 2012 for the most on record in a single year.

The city saw record-breaking and record-tying high temperatures of 101 and 97 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

Air quality has improved with the snow, rain and colder weather, great news for fire fighters battling various wildfires west of I-25.

The weather will stay chilly and unsettled through Wednesday and Thursday.

Warmer and drier weather returns for the weekend.

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Blowing dust is likely to accompany the front, and rain and high-elevation snow will start shortly afterward. As the air continues to cool overnight, snow will fall at the higher elevations and a rain/snow mix is likely for the I-25 corridor.

There is still some question exactly when the change from rain to snow will occur at which elevations, and how much will accumulate on roads and ground surfaces given the record-breaking heat.

This graphic from the National Weather Service shows expected snowfall totals for the Sept. 7-8, 2020 storm.

But temperatures will likely be near freezing along the metro corridor and plans by Tuesday morning and will combine with upslope winds to bring snow into the metro area through Tuesday night.

The biggest concern is for trees that have yet to lose their leaves and crops that have not yet been harvested, which could see heavy damage, broken limbs and frozen crops, and lead to power outages.

Colorado snow timeline: Cold front arrives around 7 PM

Winter storm warnings are in effect for higher elevations, the foothills and Palmer Divide, with a winter weather advisory in effect for much of the metro area and some of the plains into Wednesday morning, when temperatures are expected to dip into the 20s.

For much of the Front Range corridor, between 3 and 7 inches of snow is expected by early Wednesday, starting around midnight tonight. The foothills and some mountain areas could see 5 to 10 inches, with up to 15 inches in some of the higher mountain elevations, according to the National Weather Service.

There are also freeze warnings in effect for the Eastern Plains, where temperatures are expected to dip below freezing by Wednesday morning and damage crops and gardens.

Denver's earliest snow of the season came Sept. 3, 1961, when a Labor Day storm brought 4.2 inches to Stapleton Airport and dumped nearly a foot in the western suburbs and foothills.

According to the weather service's daily histories, there's no mention of snow on Sept. 4-7.

On Sept. 8, 1962, Denver saw its earliest freeze of the season when temperatures dipped to 31 degrees. But still, no snow.

The next mention of snow is found in the entry for Sept. 12, when snow fell in 1974 and 1989.

Snow on Tuesday would be Denver's earliest in the last decade, by a longshot. Last year's first snow came Oct. 10, and the earliest in the last 10 years was Oct. 5, 2012.

Denver's average first snowfall is Oct. 18.

Denver could also toy with the record books for the largest single-day temperature swing. The largest-ever change was 66 degrees, from 46 degrees to -20 degrees, on Jan. 25, 1872. Denver has a forecast high of 94 and low of 33 on Monday.

A Weather Action Day is in effect through Wednesday, with cold temperatures expected to gradually lift to a high of 55 on Thursday and a high of 72 on Friday. Over the weekend, highs will return to the 80s.

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