Durango has been buried. And while residents may be excited about the white blanket over the region, all the snow can be a nuisance when it comes to getting around.
City plow drivers have been working 12-hour shifts for “quite a few days,” said Mike Somsen, street superintendent for the city of Durango. As of Tuesday morning, Somsen said 99 percent of Durango streets had been cleared.
“It takes a little bit of time to get it all,” he said. “We’re almost there.”
In the past week, two storms dumped more than 17 inches of snow in Durango, said Jimmy Fowler, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. The San Juan Mountains got more than 2 feet, he said. Purgatory Resort reported 26 inches since Friday. Wolf Creek Ski Area got 34 inches in this latest storm, bringing year-to-date snowfall totals to 140 inches.
While neither of those storms were atypical, Fowler said the region needed the precipitation. Not including the most recent storm, precipitation totals for December in Durango were about 61 percent of average, Fowler said. But that is up about 267 percent compared with December 2017, he said.
All the snowfall has been a boon for Ted’s Rental & Sales, which sold about 15 snowblowers since the storms started – about a quarter of its inventory, said Ted Hermesman, owner of the business. He said if the region gets another major storm, the business may sell out of snowblowers. Hermesman said he has to order snowblowers a year in advance, and this year, he got about 60. The most he’s ever sold in a season was about 250, he said.
“Since the first storm last Friday, we’ve only been putting them together and selling them,” Hermesman said of his snowblower inventory.
City workers plan to remove snow from city streets Thursday night, Friday morning, Friday night and Saturday morning, Somsen said. He expects the city will move about 300 dump-truck loads of snow to a snow farm near the Tech Center in west Durango. Each dump truck can carry about 12 cubic yards of snow, Somsen said. A typical dumpster holds about 3 cubic yards.
The most recent storm, which started New Year’s Eve and dumped 10.2 inches of snow in Durango, was a wet one, Fowler said. While the snow was light and fluffy, the amount made it a significant precipitation event for the region. One weather observer, about 5 miles south of Durango, reported 7 inches of snow that melted into almost a half inch of water.
The ratio of snow to water varies based on temperature. For example, at 30 degrees Fahrenheit, 10 inches of snow equals about 1 inch of water. At 12 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 inches of snow equals about 1 inch of water. This past storm’s snow ratios hovered around 18 inches of snow to 1 inch of water, Fowler said. The snowfall 5 miles south of Durango was at a ratio of 15 inches of snow to 1 inch of water, he said.
It is too early to say if Durango is going to have average or above-average snowfall this winter, Fowler said. Peak snowpack in Southwest Colorado occurs in April, he said. It won’t be until then that the National Weather Service can make a definitive determination about how this winter will affect drought in Southwest Colorado.
“We have a decent timeframe to make up this deficit,” Fowler said of the drought. “After the very dry winter and practically nonexistent monsoon season, we need to have a very wet winter.”
And Mother Nature may be cooperating. The high-pressure systems that blocked moisture last winter have not materialized so far this winter, and warm water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are good signs for an El Niño winter, which brings more moisture to the region than normal.
Another storm could move into the region Sunday night and Monday morning, but it was too early Wednesday afternoon to know if the system would produce snow for Southwest Colorado, Fowler said.