DENVER (CBS4) – For someone native to Denver, Saturday night’s snow was just another storm, and could very well be one of the many reasons why you love to live here.

But if you’re new to the city, you might be wondering what the heck happened.

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Denver is highly susceptible to freak, or sudden, snowstorms.

There are several reasons why they can hit with little to no advanced warning.

To be fair, Saturday’s overnight snow was in the forecast, almost to the hour, but the intensity was not anticipated.

So why do freak snowstorms occasionally happen?

Take your average January day and throw in a soggy storm spinning to the southwest along with a cold front approaching from Wyoming.

That was the scenario on Saturday.

It was pretty clear that some unsettled weather was in the future.

Add in a fairly strong jet stream forecast to move across the area and things get a little more interesting, but a whole lot more challenging, because now it’s an issue of timing.

In other words, do all of the pieces align just right to really maximize the weather system’s full potential.

RELATED: Freak Snowstorm Slams Parts Of Denver With Heavy Snow

Here’s where the “freak snowstorm” part comes in.

Put the weather scenario discussed above over a city like Denver, which has a 14 thousand foot wall of rock to the west, a nearly 8 thousand foot wall of rock to the south, and much lower open plains to the east and northeast.

The result is one of the most complicated forecasting puzzles in the nation as the atmosphere interacts with the terrain below.

Despite living in Denver for 15 years and being educated locally as a meteorologist, I’m always amazed by the power of nature as storm systems cross the central Rockies.

Each one leaves behind a unique and sometimes dramatic footprint.

Often that means one side of town gets slammed while the other wakes up wondering what all the hype was about.

Meteorologist Chris Spears writes about stories related to weather and climate in Colorado. Check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @ChrisCBS4.


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