Buckle up, Denver: There’s a major snowstorm rolling into the area, just in time to complicate your Thanksgiving travel plans.

The shock value will be big with this one, as it won’t start snowing heavily until after dark on Monday and by the time we wake on Tuesday, there very well could be a half a foot of snow on the ground or more. Winter weather alerts have already been issued for all of Northeast Colorado, including the Denver metro area.

Snowfall is expected to begin across Denver after 3 p.m. on Monday, starting slowly at first, and increasing as we head into the evening. Heavy snow will fall overnight into Tuesday morning, and travel is expected to be extremely difficult on Tuesday morning, if not impossible. Winds will also be gusty. We’re looking at relatively light winds around 10 to 15 mph, but there could be times that we see winds increase to over 20 to 30-plus mph. This could lead to blizzard conditions across the Eastern Plains and even into the metro area.

Snow will continue Tuesday morning and last through the afternoon, with heavy snow tapering to light snow showers and eventually snow flurries. Total accumulation is expected to be between 8 to 18 inches for Denver with 12 inches to 2 feet possible near Boulder and the foothills west of Boulder and Fort Collins. Cities and towns north of Denver are likely to see the heaviest accumulating snow, with a foot to a foot-and-a-half.

There are several variables we need to consider to determine how much this storm will impact the Denver area: 1) The storm could come in stronger. 2) The storm could come in further south, which would likely ensure Denver with double-digit snow totals. 3) It could move slower than current thinking, which would mean more snow. 4) Finally, there could be a stronger upslope wind event on Tuesday that lasts longer into the day, which would also lead to higher totals.

Of course, there is also a possibility that Denver will end up with the low-end amount of snow, which is about 6 to 8 inches, and still an impactful weather event.

The storm is also expected to bring in a lot of moisture. Some models are suggesting that Denver could get over 1 inch of liquid—that’s impressive for November standards (or really any time of the year in Denver).

The general rule in the meteorological community is to use a 10:1 ratio when forecasting snow. That means that one inch of liquid precipitation equals 10 inches of snow or that 10 inches of snow can melt down to one inch of liquid. That ratio varies depending on temperatures. We’re expecting cold temperatures to accompany this storm, so our ratios may end up around 15:1 or 18:1. That will also have an impact on snow totals.

This storm will have wide-reaching impacts all around northeastern Colorado. You should prepare to not travel Monday night into Tuesday because this storm will come in fast and snow will begin to stick quickly. And unfortunately for those trying to get the heck out of Denver for the Thanksgiving holiday, airport delays are likely Monday night and Tuesday, with closures and cancellations probable.

Snow will end by Tuesday afternoon, but temperatures will remain cold. Tuesday evening’s commute will be icy with snow-packed roads. Snowplows will likely be out all night Tuesday into Wednesday morning, but expect a slick morning commute on Wednesday, as well. Temperatures on Wednesday will stay near freezing with partly cloudy skies.

Thanksgiving day looks dry and chilly with snow on the ground. But that’s not all—another round of snow is expected late Thursday into Saturday, which could bring another couple of inches.

Stay safe out there, and enjoy your snowy Thanksgiving!

Andy Stein
Andy Stein
Andy Stein is a freelance meteorologist with experience working on both local and national television.