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San Juan Mountains get snow; Cortez gets wet

Ski resorts report 4-11 inches of snow

Montezuma County got a break from a long dry spell Wednesday morning as storm systems dumped snow and rain throughout the region.

The National Weather Service sent out a winter storm warning for the Southwest San Juan Mountains at 2:50 a.m., predicting heavy snowfall that would last through 12 a.m. Thursday. In the higher-elevation areas of Montezuma County, such as Dolores and Mancos, slushy snow began to fall mid-Wednesday morning, but at 10 a.m., Cortez had received only rain. Local meteorologists said they expected up to half an inch of precipitation for the Cortez area by the end of the day, and 10 to 20 inches of snow in the mountains.

Telluride Ski Resort on Wednesday reported that it had received 4 inches of snow overnight. Wolf Creek Ski area reported 11 inches, and Purgatory Resort reported 9 inches.

Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the storms were the result of a low pressure system moving up through the Four Corners from the south, and a cold front coming to the area from the northwest. The temperature in Cortez was 39 degrees at 10 a.m., but Stackhouse predicted it would get colder later in the day, possibly leading to some snow and ice.

Cortez meteorologist Jim Andrus said he had measured 0.15 inches of precipitation at 8 a.m., and expected about a quarter inch more by the end of the day. Even that small amount of rain has improved Montezuma County’s outlook for the beginning of the year, he said, bringing precipitation levels up from 2 percent of normal to 39 percent.

But the reprieve may be a brief one, Stackhouse said. She predicted the weather would clear and warm up by Thursday morning.

“We’re not expecting any more precipitation in the area for quite a while,” she said.

In the meantime, the meteorologists encouraged drivers to be cautious on the road. Some areas in the San Juan Mountains had already received 5 to 9 inches of snow by 9:30 a.m., Stackhouse said, and she predicted gusty winds later in the day could reduce visibility on the road. Even in Cortez, Andrus said the wet roads could become icy when the temperature drops later in the evening.

“Roads could still have water on them that could freeze pretty quickly,” he said. “People will have to drive carefully.”

According to the NWS, the forecast will remain mostly sunny Thursday through Sunday, with high temperatures in the upper 40s.

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