Durango could receive up to 8 inches of snow by late afternoon today.
If that National Weather Service prediction is accurate, area winter sports enthusiasts, wildlife and motorists will feel the impacts.
While a good snowstorm often drives Durango residents to higher elevations for sledding, snowboarding, skiing and other wintry pursuits, officials say heavy winter weather pushes area wildlife in the opposite direction.
Snow accumulations are increasing, with much more snow predicted over the next few days, said Matt Janowiak, Bureau of Land Management Columbine Field Office Manager.
Deep snow forces deer and elk herds in higher elevations to migrate to lower ground in search of new resting and feeding areas, according to state wildlife officials. So the threat of another snowstorm led officials to announce plans to close public access at two area trail systems to allow movement of wildlife. Beginning Monday, portions of Grandview Ridge and Animas Mountain will be closed.
Meanwhile, the slushy mess left behind by lingering rains this week were causing problems for some area drivers even before more snow began to fall Wednesday night.
The slush pulled a flatbed truck and trailer filled with hay off the road and caused it to overturn on Colorado Highway 140 in Hesperus. No other vehicles were involved, and nobody was hurt.
Describing the weeks weather as mild so far, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Colton said the situation likely would grow worse overnight Wednesday and remain that way through much of today.
Areas north and east of town and higher elevations could see more snow than in downtown Durango. Silverton could receive up to 16 inches of powder, and the Pagosa Springs area could see up to a foot of snow, Colton said.
Conditions Wednesday evening ranged from wet and slushy in downtown Durango to snowpacked and icy on Molas, Coal Bank, Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes, but all remained open to drivers. Chains are required for commercial vehicles on the mountain passes, except Red Mountain.
Sunshine and warmer temperatures are in store for the holiday weekend, though, Colton said.
Officials on Monday will close for the winter all but a 1.5-mile trail loop on the lower portion of Animas Mountain. Visitors can access the loop, located on the northwest edge of Durango, by trailheads at Birket Drive and 32nd Street and at Dalla Mountain Park.
Portions of Grandview Ridge, on the southeast edge of Durango, also will be closed. Sale Barn and Big Canyon trailheads off U.S. Highway 550/160 will be closed to public use. South Rim Trail, Telegraph and Sidewinder trails also will be off-limits.
Carbon Junction Trail, however, will remain open from the Colorado Highway 3 trailhead to Crites Connection and along a small portion of Telegraph Trail that leads into Horse Gulch.
The closed areas will be patrolled through the winter, and people found violating the recreation ban could be subject to fines.
The public lands will remain closed until sometime in March or April.
In the meantime, officials with the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Division of Wildlife encourage residents and visitors to use other open public lands in the area, including Horse Gulch, Raiders Ridge, Fort Lewis College Rim, Overend Mountain Park and Dalla Mountain Park.