A winter storm Monday that left up to 5 inches of snow in downtown Durango is expected to continue into Tuesday morning, causing messy commutes for drivers while bringing much-needed moisture to the region.
“This is good news for the mountains, for sure,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Charnick.
This most recent storm entered Southwest Colorado around 3 a.m. Monday, hitting the lower elevations from Durango to Pagosa Springs, as well as the high country north in the San Juan Mountains.
Although snow totals were still coming in late Monday, it appears the storm dumped a significant amount of snowfall, as expected.
Purgatory Resort reported a foot of new snow in the last 24 hours as of 5 p.m. Farther east, Wolf Creek Ski area reported 11 inches of new snow.
Hesperus Ski Area, which hasn’t been able to open this season for lack of snow, said it received 4 new inches. And Kendall Mountain Ski Area in Silverton, which held its opening day Sunday, is getting a much needed boost.
“We’ve had a ton of snow today, and there’s more in the forecast,” said Silverton public relations specialist Lisa Branner. “So hopefully we should be in pretty good shape after that.”
Most of the SNOWTEL stations around the region had not been updated since Monday morning. Charnick, however, said Durango likely received anywhere from 1 to 5 inches of snow throughout the day.
The first major snowstorm of the 2017-18 winter season made for a chaotic day on the roads.
Colorado State Patrol reported several vehicles slid off the road and a rollover crash near Pagosa Springs. A second rollover crash was reported about 8:15 a.m. near Yellowjacket Pass, between Bayfield and Pagosa Springs.
“Slow down and have adequate equipment,” said Capt. Adrian Driscoll of State Patrol.
Chris Burke, spokesman for La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, said the agency responded to several slide-offs in the county, especially on Florida Road. The Sheriff’s Office assisted CSP with six incidents, though none involved serious injuries.
Calls to Durango Police were not returned.
Chain and traction laws are in effect on Coal Bank and Molas passes, between Durango and Silverton, which require chains or alternative devices for all commercial vehicles, including buses. Passenger vehicles are required to have snow or mud/snow tires, use chains/alternative traction devices or have four-wheel or all-wheel drive.
A chain law is in effect for Wolf Creek Pass, requiring chains or alternative traction devices for all commercial vehicles, including buses, and no oversized loads. There are no restrictions for passenger vehicles.
All after-school activities, with the exception of Kids’ Camp and Juniper Club, were canceled Monday by Durango School District 9-R. Cancellations included sporting practices, club events and school-sponsored events. Bus services ran as scheduled.
Tony Vicari, director of the Durango-La Plata County Airport, reported only minor delays Monday morning as planes de-iced. Otherwise, airport crews have been able to keep all departures and arrivals on schedule.
Over at JP Tire, shop foreman Tappen Brimhall said business was busy as people put on their snow tires in preparation of the storm. The abnormally warm and dry conditions that have defined this winter had many scrambling at the last minute.
“You know, we had a lot of people in the past week or so have their winter tires taken off, and now they’re all coming back in and getting them put back on,” Brimhall said. “Hopefully, it’ll keep up.”
If the forecasters have any say, the winter weather will keep up. Storms slated for Wednesday into Thursday could bring another round of snowfall to the region. When all is said and done, portions of Southwest Colorado could have nearly 3 feet of new snow.
For Jeff Givens, a self-taught weather observer in Durango with a Facebook following of more than 3,000 people, the wild winter weather is a welcomed sight after the past few months.
“I got so frustrated, I almost threw in the towel three weeks ago,” Givens said. “But we’ve kind of turned a corner here, which is nice to see.”