Scattered snow showers will usher in the official start of spring this week in Southwest Colorado, bringing up to 3 feet of snow to some parts of the San Juan Mountains but mostly rain to lower elevations like Durango and Cortez, according to weather forecasters.
The precipitation is likely to begin early Monday in Durango and Cortez, with a scattered mixture of rain and snow throughout the afternoon; Pagosa Springs will likely see more snow than rain.
The initial storm should clear out by Tuesday afternoon, said Erin Walter, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. But more precipitation is likely to return Wednesday.
“There's some warming coming with that, which will likely have precipitation fall more so as rain,” Walter said. “Those temperatures are going to be a big threshold in determining how much total snow the town of Durango will receive.”
The NWS seven-day forecast shows this week’s high temperatures in the low 40s in Durango and Cortez.
Walter said elevations above 7,000 feet are likely to receive snow. She said Durango can expect around an inch of snow from this week’s storms and Cortez will likely receive only a half inch.
Pagosa Springs is likely to receive 3 to 6 inches snow in total. However, mountain passes along the U.S. Highway 550 corridor are likely to receive 1 and 3 feet from this week’s storms. Storms during the early part of the week will likely hit Coal Bank and Molas Pass harder, while storms later in the week will favor Red Mountain Pass.
Walter said Red Mountain Pass could receive about 20 inches by Wednesday. Purgatory Resort was expecting up to 3 feet of snow over the course of the week, according to an email it sent to customers on Thursday.
Storms this winter have had a positive impact on Southwest Colorado’s drought. As of Sunday, most of La Plata, Archuleta and Montezuma counties were no longer considered to be in drought conditions, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System. Only the very southwest corner of Montezuma County, the southeast portion of La Plata County and the southwest portion of Archuleta County were considered abnormally dry.
The snowpack for the upper San Juan Mountains is at 162% above normal while the Dolores River Basin is at 170% above normal.
As of Sunday, areas north of Durango up through Red Mountain Pass are labeled as “considerable” for avalanche danger by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Another chance for scattered snowstorms arrives Friday and Saturday. However, Walter said temperatures will be a determining factor as to whether lower elevations experience snowfall.
“The rates will definitely go down after Wednesday system, but it does look like snow is in the forecast for the remainder of the week,” Walter said.