The storm that has dumped a foot or two of snow in Southwest Colorado since early Wednesday is supposed to taper off today, but its not exiting gracefully.
Snow continued to pound lower elevations Thursday and closed Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes on U.S. Highway 550 in the early morning.
Slick pavement, avalanche control and extremely low visibility dictated the closure of Highway 550 just north of Cascade, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said.
She didnt know when the passes might open. They remained closed Thursday evening.
There is very low visibility and wind about 50 mph on the three passes, Shanks said.
Lizard Head Pass on Colorado Highway 145, which is used as an alternate route by some motorists, was open but visibility is low, Shanks said.
Shanks advised anyone intending to use Lizard Head Pass to check conditions at www.cotrip.org. Unsettled conditions can result in closure at a moments notice, she said.
The weather played havoc Thursday at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.
Conditions were horrible, Director of Aviation Ron Dent said. The runway was a sheet of ice, visibility was terrible, and it was windy.
The result was delayed departures for three flights to Denver that usually leave between 6 and 8 a.m.
There were at least two flights from Denver that were canceled, Dent said. Im not sure of the reasons.
Conditions improved in the afternoon, Dent said.
The Bureau of Land Management closed offices here and elsewhere in the state at noon Thursday because of severe weather.
The city was on yellow alert, during which streets were plowed around the clock and the trolley ran every half hour while other buses were on a one-hour schedule.
No complaints about snow were heard at the Durango Parks and Recreation Department, which announced it is opening Chapman Hill to skiing today. The department planned to make snow but decided to wait for the real stuff.
Snow is expected to taper off today, replaced by sub-zero temperatures on the weekend, National Weather Service meteorologist Ellen Heffernan said Thursday.
In the 24 hours ending at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Coal Bank Pass received 31 inches of snow, Heffernan said. Molas Pass got 21 inches and Red Mountain 19 inches in the same period.
Some Durango-area weather observers recorded two-day snow totals in the high teens.
b Bill Butler said 18.1 inches fell in Durango West II.
b Maureen Keilty recorded 22 inches at her home in Rafter J.
b Pam Snyder in Hesperus found 13 inches.
b Briggen Wrinkle, who reports rain and snow readings to the National Weather Service, collected 14 inches of snow in the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The next front, a weak one, could move through the area Monday evening, bringing a slight chance of snow, Heffernan said.
But meanwhile, expect temperatures to drop, she said.
After Friday (today) , expect cold, Heffernan said. High temperatures Saturday will be in the teens, and overnight they could be 5 to 15 degrees below zero. On Sunday, highs will be in the 20s, with overnight lows around zero.