Spring-like weather has accelerated snowmelt in Southwest Colorado, causing soggy conditions near the snowline and muddy flows in the lower valleys.
One such discharge occurred Friday morning in the 2700 block of East Animas Road (County Road 250), about 2½ miles north of Durango, where a 100-foot section of road was covered in the slippery slime.
La Plata County government announced it closed the road Friday morning, but as of late morning, cars were rolling through the silt.
“It started oozing quite a bit last night,” said Butch Knowlton, director of Emergency Preparedness. “By this morning (Friday), it was clear across the road.”
Road crews pushed back the mud and cleared a culvert.
Temperatures were 12 degrees above normal Wednesday, 16 degrees above normal Thursday and about 20 degrees above normal Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
The unseasonably warm weather is taking toll on above-average snowpack, especially near the snowline, and rain this weekend threatens to hasten that snowmelt, said Dennis Phillips, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
A warm storm off the California coast was expected to split Friday, with one half going south through Arizona and New Mexico and the other half going north of Durango, which will push cold air into the region Saturday afternoon, Phillips said.
Forecasters were calling for 8 to 14 inches of snow above 10,000 feet in elevation through Sunday. The storms will result in rain below 9,000 feet in elevation Saturday, with it switching to a mix of snow and rain Saturday night, he said.
“We might even see isolated thunderstorms Saturday, Sunday and Monday afternoon,” Phillips said. “It’s more spring-like and very unstable in the afternoons.”
Knowlton said he’ll keep an eye on the snowpack over the next few months. Snowpack was 169 percent of the median as of Feb. 1 for the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins. Any time snowpack is above 150 percent of normal, it creates the potential for high runoff and swollen waterways, Knowlton said.
It all depends on atmospheric conditions, he said.
“People don’t really understand how much water can be produced when you get rain on the water in the snowpack,” he said. “It’s something that we’re checking on daily.”