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Storm brings snow to Southwest Colorado; more might be coming

Four to eight inches falls in parched mountains
A view of U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango on Sunday morning.

Overcast conditions and patchy fog made way for clear blue skies Sunday morning, but not before a short-lived snowstorm left a modest amount of snowfall in the parched high country of Southwest Colorado.

About 10 p.m. Saturday, a winter storm entered the region, which was predicted to leave anywhere from six to eight inches of snowfall in higher elevations above 7,000 feet.

“Overall, things panned out as expected,” said Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

According to NWS data, Coal Bank Pass received 5 inches of snow and Molas Pass received about 4.5 inches. Further south near Trimble Lane, 2 inches of snow were recorded.

And up on Red Mountain Pass, nearly 10 inches of snow fell.

Purgatory Resort also reported about 4 inches of new snow overnight. Wolf Creek Ski area said it received 3 inches during the same period.

“We got a good bit of snow for most places,” Stackhouse said.

In Cortez and Durango, as expected, the precipitation fell mostly as rain, with any snow/rain mixture not sticking to the ground. A NWS station near Florida Road just northeast of Durango recorded .5 inches of precipitation.

As a result of the storm, travel restrictions were placed on Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes, which mostly called for chains on commercial vehicles and snow/mud tires for passenger vehicles.

Those restrictions were lifted Sunday morning, said Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes.

Several agencies contacted Sunday morning – including CDOT, Durango Fire Protection District, Durango Police Department, La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District – all said there were no significant accidents due to the storm.

“It was pretty slow, which is a good thing,” said Roy Vreeland, deputy chief with the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District.

The latest SNOWTEL data shows the storm gave a little yet much needed boost to Southwest Colorado, which has been at about 20 percent of its normal snowpack averages so far this winter.

As of Sunday, the Animas, Dolores, San Juan and San Miguel basins are now at 25 percent of their historical average. The state as a whole is at 56 percent.

Yet more snowfall may be in the cards this week for Southwest Colorado. NWS’s Stackhouse said a storm on its way to the region Tuesday brings the promise of more moisture than this weekend’s system.

“It looks like this storm (on Tuesday) will favor the southern mountains more,” she said. “And it’s looking like there’ll be more moisture than what we just had.”

The storm should reach Southwest Colorado by Tuesday night, and continue most of the day Wednesday. Though it’s a little too premature to call snow totals, Stackhouse said it’s looking like up to eight inches could fall in the high country.

“It’s definitely more promising,” she said.


Jan 10, 2018
San Juan Mountains get snow; Cortez gets wet