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More snow expected midweek in Southwest Colorado

Cortez could see 8 inches of new snow; Rico may get 2 feet
Molas and Red Mountain passes could receive 1 to 2 feet of snow from this week’s storm. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Forecasters are calling for more snow this week in Southwest Colorado, beginning Tuesday night and carrying into Thursday morning.

Two storms will hit in succession, with a smaller one Tuesday night and a larger one Wednesday, said Matt Aleksa, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Cortez can expect 1to 2 inches Tuesday, then 3 to 6 inches Wednesday, said Jim Andrus, Cortez National Weather Service observer.

Possible accumulation Tuesday through Wednesday for Dolores is 9 to 16 inches; for Mancos, 5 to 8 inches; for Dove Creek 8 to 12 inches; for Rico 15 to 27 inches; and for Telluride 5 to 10 inches.

Durango could receive 11 inches, along with winds that could reach 35 mph on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. Road closures could occur on Molas, Red Mountain and Lizard Head passes, where 1 to 2 feet of snow is expected to fall Wednesday. Wolf Creek Pass could receive 2 feet of snow.

Forecasters are calling for 8 to 10 inches of snow in Pagosa Springs.

A winter storm watch has been issued for Tuesday night through late Wednesday night for the Southwest San Juan Mountains, including the La Sal and Abajo Mountains and the cities of Silverton, Rico, Hesperus and Monticello.

High winds and the potential for significant snow in the lower valleys could create hazardous travel conditions on U.S. Highways 160 and 491 from Dove Creek to Towaoc and Cortez to Durango, said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Aleksa.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Renwick noted that the predictions could change, but the region should expect some snowfall this week.

“What we’ve got going is a low-pressure system off the coast of California that’s kind of slowly dropped down and it will eventually get to Arizona,” Renwick said. “And the circulation around the low-pressure system is going to bring in all this moisture over from the Pacific, much like we’ve been seeing.”

Durango and Cortez have already surpassed snow totals from last winter. Data from the National Weather Service shows Durango has received 49 inches of snow so far this winter compared with the 24 inches from the 2021-22 winter season. Cortez has received 52.6 inches this winter compared with 20.6 inches last year.

It is likely to be cloudy all week with freezing temperatures. Renwick said Durango’s average high temperature for this time of year is about 51 degrees but that this week’s high won’t surpass 39 degrees.

Temperatures may increase Sunday, but Renwick said it is too early to predict with any certainty.

The storms depart by Thursday and Cortez gets sunny, with Friday high of 36 degrees, Saturday 38 degrees and Sunday 46 degrees, according to the forecast.

Early forecast predictions call for the possibility of another storm on March 8, but the latest forecast models are showing that storm may stay in New Mexico and not make it this far north, Renwick said.

Winter snowpack continues to climb above the 30-year average for the Dolores and Animas River Basins.

As of Monday, the Dolores Basin was at 150% of average for snow water equivalent, and the Animas Basin was at 133% of average for snow water equivalent.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche watch for the south San Juan Mountains from Monday afternoon until Wednesday afternoon.

The avalanche watch includes areas around Lizard Head Pass, the Rico Mountains, the La Plata Mountains, areas surrounding Vallecito Reservoir, Wolf Creek, Cumbres, and La Manga Passes.

Strong winds and heavy snowfall will create very dangerous avalanche conditions Tuesday night through Wednesday. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended during this time frame, CAIC states.

Reporter Jim Mimiaga of The Journal contributed to this report.

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