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Forecast calls for snowfall Monday night in Cortez area

Cold and wind pose frostbite threat; Telluride could get 8 inches
Purgatory Resort is predicted to receive 3 to 6 inches of snow during a storm Monday night. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Southwest Colorado could get 4 to 8 inches of blowing snow in the San Juan Mountains beginning Monday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm, though not part of a strong moisture system, is expected to drop 1 to 2 inches of snow in Cortez, and 6 to 8 inches in Telluride.

The high temperature Monday in Cortez is expected to be near 42 degrees, with a low of 24 degrees. Tuesday, the high is expected to fall to 30 degrees, with an overnight low of about 9 degrees.

A winter weather advisory is in effect from 5 p.m. Monday to 5 p.m. Tuesday in the southern San Juan Mountains. With wind gusts reaching 45 mph, wind chills could drop to below zero, cold enough to cause frostbite on exposed skin within 30 minutes, the weather service said.

The storm is estimated to bring between 3 to 6 inches around Purgatory Resort and 4 to 8 inches near Molas and Coal Bank passes.

La Plata County also could receive snow Friday, said NWS meteorologist Kris Sanders.

“As we get into Friday, there’s sort of another system of similar strength moving through, and there might be a little bit more moisture associated with that storm,” he said.

There is a chance the storms could carry over into early next week, but Sanders said it’s hard to predict what might happen in the next seven days. The National Weather Service is keeping a close eye on storms early next week to see whether they deliver more moisture.

Sanders said there are signs of an active period for winter storms over the next two weeks.

“The strength of that next system looks to be a little bit more potent as far as moisture is concerned,” Sanders said. “So we could see higher numbers, but that’s pretty far out and hard to say at this point.”

Meteorologists predict winter storm precipitation based on the strength of the storm system. The strength of storm systems is often affiliated with lower pressure.

Sanders said it’s hard to tell how much snow Durango and its surrounding areas will receive this year. He said there is an equal possibility that Durango will receive below-average snowfall as it will receive above average snowfall this winter.

As the Four Corners head into another La Niña winter, it could be relatively dry until the last months of winter.

La Niña is the periodic cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. Tropical rainfall patterns from Indonesia to the west coast of South America are impacted by changes in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean. These changes affect weather patterns throughout the world.

Typically, the southern parts of the United States experiences dry weather during the early parts of the winter as a result.

However, Sanders said one large storm could better the chances for more snow early in the winter season.

“If that area gets one really big storm or a series of storms with one big low-pressure system moving from the west coast with a strong atmospheric river, you could see the amount of precipitation really increased during those periods,” he said.

Sanders said it’s still too early to tell how the snowpack will look this year but thinks it will be an average year.

The NWS Climate Prediction Center three-month outlook indicates that precipitation numbers will lean toward below average in December and January while having equal chances of being above or below average during February and March.