DENVER (CBS4) Most residents of the Denver metropolitan area woke up to 6 to 12 inches of snow Thursday morning. Instead of falling the heaviest snow in the foothills as expected, a shift in the wind pattern on Wednesday night caused the largest 2-day total of snow in Denver since 2016.
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The Littleton, Federal Heights, Highlands Ranch, and South Denver areas had most of the snow, more than a foot in each area.
Ironically, areas over 6,000 feet south and west of Denver had lower snow totals. These areas almost always get more snow than Denver with the type of storm that occurred late Wednesday.
Officially, Denver received 9.6 inches of snow, the largest 2-day total of snow in the city since Nov. 16-17. April 2016 represents. The storm completely erased the previous snowfall deficit for the season. Denver has now received 13.5 inches of snow this February and 33.6 inches this season.
Why did Denver get so much more snow than the foothills? The answer is the wind pattern that ultimately sets in along the Front Range on Wednesday evening.
With the center of the storm over the Four Corners area, Denver and the Front Range should have an easterly wind. Normally, this easterly current would hit the foothills west of the subway area and be pushed up. The prediction was that this upward movement would produce the heaviest snow in the foothills and along the Palmer Divide (over 6,000 feet) in Counties Douglas and Elbert. In reality it wasn’t just an easterly wind on Wednesday night. Instead, winds came from two directions: the east / southeast and the northwest. When the northwest wind met the southeast wind, it established a line of convergence directly over Denver. This converging wind area became the bullseye for snow instead of the higher terrain west and south of the city.
This local weather phenomenon is often referred to as the “Denver Convergence Vorticity Zone” or DCVZ. It is most common in the warm months and is often responsible for triggering afternoon thunderstorms and brief tornadoes on the southeast side of the metro area.
In the meantime, not much snow was expected from the mountains, and generally not. All ski resorts in Colorado measured less snow than Denver on Thursday morning. The ski areas will do better with the next storm this weekend. Fresh powder is expected for almost all ski areas on Saturday. Denver can get a few thunderstorms or a few light snow showers late Saturday, but no accumulation is expected.