Colorado weather: DIA gets 8 inches of snow, many Front Range communities see less than expected

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A snow plow clears I-225 in Aurora as a winter storm blows through Colorado’s Front Range on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023

A slow-moving winter storm dropped nearly 8 inches of snow at Denver International Airport and parts of the Eastern Plains overnight Tuesday. But many communities along the I-25 corridor saw less than forecast due to a last-minute shift in the weather pattern.

A strong ridge of high pressure in the Eastern United States pushed the storm farther northeast than most models predicted, said Jim Kalina, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Boulder. 

“It just happens sometimes with these systems,” Kalina said. “It was pretty much showing a track for a huge storm for the Front Range for a couple days and then suddenly at the last minute everything moved north a little bit.”

Forecasts earlier in the week showed the Denver metro getting as much as 12 inches of snow. 

DIA’s totals on Wednesday morning were the highest for a January storm since 1992. But those high numbers haven’t panned out farther west along the I-25 corridor.

Aurora logged just 5 inches overnight Tuesday. Commerce City saw 5.5. Boulder saw about 4. 

Light snow is expected to continue for most of the day Wednesday along the Front Range. Communities west of I-25 could see about another inch.

Areas east of the highway, including the Eastern Plains, could see another 3, Kalina said. 

While snow totals didn’t hit alarming levels, many government buildings along the Front Range closed on Wednesday. Some cities, like Denver, activated warming centers as a shelter for those vulnerable to the subfreezing temperatures. 

Denver Public Schools called a full snow day Wednesday — which means classes won’t even be conducted online. Extracurricular activities, like clubs and sports, have also been canceled. Other major school districts, like Littleton Public Schools and Douglas County School District, also shut down campuses Wednesday. Despite the reduced amount of snow, Denver was moving ahead with its announced plan to plow even side streets.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Clearing snow from the sidewalk along East Colfax Avenue in Denver as a winter storm blows through Colorado's Front Range on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.

Universities — many of which just began the spring semester — also preemptively shut down campus in anticipation of the snow. The University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado State University and all schools on the Auraria Campus in Denver are among the major universities that have closed. 

Travelers hoping to have a smooth flying experience at Denver International Airport could be disappointed. There have been nearly 150 cancellations of flights coming out of DIA as of Wednesday morning, with a couple dozen delays. Most of the cancellations come from Southwest Airlines, which is still reeling from the last winter storm that hit Colorado

Several major roadways shut down temporarily early Wednesday due to the storm. Interstate 25 southbound lanes were closed near Larkspur due to a stuck tractor trailer, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Interstate 76 on the Eastern Plains closed in both directions from Sterling to Nebraska, where some of the heaviest snow was falling.

Highs along the Front Range Wednesday are forecast for the 30’s. Grand Junction is expected to hit 34 degrees, with snow moving out by early afternoon. 

Vail and other mountain communities will see temperatures around 15 degrees and snow through Wednesday night. 

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
First responders assist a pedestrian on Colfax Avenue at I-225 in Aurora as a winter storm blows through Colorado's Front Range on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023.