Drivers traveling in the high country this weekend should exercise caution as a winter storm moves into the region Saturday.
Colorado Department of Transportation announced that traction law was in effect for U.S. Highway 550 at Red Mountain Pass, which says passenger vehicles are required to have snow or mud/snow tires, use chains or alternative traction devices or are 4WD/AWD vehicles.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the San Juan Mountains starting 7 a.m. Saturday, which includes the towns of Silverton, Telluride, Ouray and Hesperus, with up to 10 inches of snow expected at elevations above 10,000 feet.
The U.S. Highway 550 corridor north of Durango, including Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes, is likely to bear the brunt of the storm.
Durangoans won’t be so lucky, as the cold front moving in from the north is expected to drop temperatures into the mid-40s, not quite conducive to snow.
“Durango probably won’t see much of anything, maybe a trace to a coating of snow,” said Michael Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “Temperatures will be pretty warm on Saturday. There could be a couple of showers later in the afternoon.”
Climate troublemaker La Niña is partially responsible for the unusually warm and dry winter plaguing Southwest Colorado. La Niña is characterized by cooler-than-average water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and is associated with changes in weather patterns.
Although it’s too early to be sure, meteorologists predict La Niña will transition into more neutral weather patterns by spring – much to Colorado’s delight.
“We are looking to see a little more precipitation getting in here for the spring,” Charnick said. “There is some hope in the long range.”
For now, Southwest Colorado will get a taste of the cold weather before conditions start to heat up again, Charnick said.
“We will see things warming up and drying out at the beginning portion of next week,” he said.
Temperatures are expected to hover in the mid-50s by the middle of next week.