Winter arrived early with a hint of snow in the Pikes Peak region this year.
But are the snow squalls Wednesday that left a light dusting from the foothills to the Colorado Springs Airport — where 1.3 inches was recorded — a hint of what’s to come? Not necessarily.
“I don’t think the early snowfall is any indication, really, of the winter coming ahead,” said Klint Skelly, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.
But if you still insist on getting your hopes up for an epic ski season, the region is on track to enter El Niño sometime soon, which could bring extra snow to Colorado, he said.
During El Niño, unusually warm ocean waters west of South America influence temperature and precipitation.
“If we get an El Niño of any sort, generally speaking, it means that there’s more low pressure systems that are able to make it far enough south to impact southern Colorado,” Skelly said. “Right now, we’re in a watch for that.”
Many Coloradans are hoping an especially white winter will help pull the region out of a lengthy drought that has made the risk of fire extreme, prolonged fire seasons and reduced the mountain snowpack to historically low levels.
“With the El Niño in place, we have a better chance of getting our average snowpack,” Skelly said. “It’s not guaranteed, because there have been winters in the past that we were in a pretty strong El Niño, and we still received less snow than we thought we were going to, less than average. That being said, the probability of us hitting normal or above normal is greater than not being in an El Niño year.”
The average date of the city’s first measurable snowfall — greater than or equal to 0.1 inches of snow — is Oct. 26, the National Weather Service in Pueblo says.
The earliest arrival was Sept. 3, 1961, when 4.2 inches fell in Colorado Springs.
Wednesday’s high temperature was 37 degrees, far below the Oct. 10 average of 65 degrees, weather service data show.
Freezing temperatures caused some icy conditions Wednesday morning, especially in northern El Paso County, and snow affected schools in the Pikes Peak region. Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 was on a two-hour delay, and Big Sandy School District 100J in eastern El Paso County was closed.
But in most areas the snow quickly melted, leaving little accumulation. Several locations across El Paso County got about an inch of snow, weather service data show.
A third consecutive freeze warning is in place overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning in the Colorado Springs area, the weather service says. Thursday brings patchy fog and chances of rain and snow showers, then the weather is expected to clear up until Saturday night, when chances of rain and snow showers return.
Slightly warmer weather is ahead, too. The weather service predicted highs of 46 degrees Thursday, 55 degrees Friday and 58 degrees Saturday.
The Gazette’s Leslie James contributed to this report.