After a chaotic morning in Southwest Colorado, with some areas reporting double-digit snow totals, it appears winter weather and the associated impacts are winding up.
Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes remain closed, however. And there’s a good chance snow will start falling again Friday evening.
Here is a roundup of news about weather and local delays and closures. This story will be updated as news develops.
Coal Bank and Red Mountain passes reopenThe Colorado Department of Transportation reopened Coal Bank and Molas passes at 2:10 p.m. Friday. Red Mountain Pass remains closed.
The reopening of Coal Bank and Molas passes mean tiny Silverton is no longer isolated from the outside world, which is good news for Durango-area residents who plan to visit the town Saturday for its annual skijoring competition.
Lizard Head Pass opensLizard Head Pass has reopened one lane to alternating traffic, north of Rico, as of about 11:20 a.m.
Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said crews cleared one lane of the highway and are continuing to push snow out of way. No avalanche mitigation was occurring Friday morning.
Chain laws are in effect for Wolf Creek Pass, meaning chains or alternative traction devices are required for all commercial vehicles, including buses and vans with capacity for 16 people or more.
Schwantes said it is unclear whether Wolf Creek Pass will have to be closed for avalanche mitigation.
Library closedThe Fort Lewis Mesa Branch Library announced Friday it will be closed in conjunction with the Durango School District 9-R closure.
LPEA hard at workAs of 10 a.m., about 5,500 LPEA consumer-members remain without power.
“Re-energizing the system is currently being impacted by the warmer temperatures as snow is melting and unloading from tree branches as well as the power lines,” LPEA said in an updated statement. “When power lines interact with each other or other obstacles, the ‘blinks’ or temporary power outages result.”
LPEA said its crews are scouting the service territory for additional damage to the system that was not visible during the night. Anyone who has witnessed downed lines or damaged equipment are asked to call 247-5786.
Traffic snarlWestbound traffic was at a near standstill during the morning commute from Elmore’s Corner through the Grandview corridor east of Durango on U.S. Highway 160. A driver who made it through the traffic jam said it took about 45 minutes. The only thing that appeared to be slowing down traffic was a car in a ditch on the side of the road, the morning commuter said.
Avalanche danger highDo not travel into the backcountry. At least that’s the recommendation of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
As of Friday morning, all of the San Juan Mountains are in the highest category of risk for avalanches through 8 a.m. Saturday.
“A foot or more of dense snow fell rapidly and is being drifted by very strong winds. Human triggered and natural avalanches are very likely,” the CAIC posted. “Avalanches will be dangerous, destructive, and run long distances. Backcountry travel in or below avalanche terrain is not recommended.”
AVALANCHE WARNING for Gunnison, Sawatch, North San Juan, South San Juan zones. Backcountry conditions are very dangerous. Avalanches could break wide and run far. Travel in or below backcountry avalanche terrain is NOT recommended today. See https://t.co/E7yJWqyZwj for details. pic.twitter.com/ZW4IhZjcH7— CAIC:Statewide Info (@COAvalancheInfo) February 15, 2019
Canceled flightsTony Vicari, director of the Durango-La Plata County Airport, said all flights have been canceled until LPEA crews can restore power to the airport.
Around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the airport closed the runway because of heavy snow and deteriorating weather conditions, Vicari said.
Then, around 11 p.m. Thursday, the airport lost power.
Vicari said as of 8:35 a.m. LPEA crews were working to restore power. He said the airport’s runway is clear and good to go, but until power is back on, it’s unlikely any flights will arrive or depart.
The canceled flights are sure to cause headaches for hundreds of passengers who are traveling for the President’s Day weekend.
Power coming back onLa Plata Electric Association crews restored power to more than 15,000 members, according to a statement sent about 8:20 a.m. However, more than 11,500 members were still without power.
”Linemen are working hard to make repairs and restore power to our members,” LPEA posted to social media.
LPEA crews restored power to more than 15,000 members through the night. However, we currently have more than 11,500 members without power. Linemen are working hard to make repairs and restore power to our members. #LPEA #OutageUpdate— LPEA (@LaPlataElectric) February 15, 2019
Delays and closuresFort Lewis College is on a two-hour delay.
La Plata County government will open at 10 a.m.
Happy Friday Skyhawks, 2 hours is better then nothing! Drive safe today and give yourself a lot of time to get to campus. pic.twitter.com/O5V5bikVMV— Fort Lewis College (@FLCDurango) February 15, 2019
Road and electricity conditionsThe “front hill” on East Eighth Avenue to Fort Lewis College is closed.
Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes remain closed. Lizard Head Pass is closed. The Colorado Department of Transportation says there is no estimated time to reopen these stretches of road.
LPEA linemen are busy tonight in Archuleta and La Plata counties. The weight of the snow is toppling trees and contacting power lines causing power outages. #LPEA #OutageUpdate pic.twitter.com/dRXDYWUgDm— LPEA (@LaPlataElectric) February 15, 2019
As of 4 a.m., La Plata Electric Association said more than 20,000 customers were without power and the co-op is working to restore it. View the outage map on their website.
WeatherThe National Weather Service forecast calls for reprieve from snow for most of today.
Purgatory Resort is reporting 17 inches of new snow overnight, and 22 inches in the last 48 hours. All lifts are open, and the resort has a 70-inch base.
Wolf Creek Ski Area is reporting 13 inches of new snow and a 105-inche base at the summit.