Blizzard-like conditions buried Southwest Colorado in another layer of fresh snow Monday, leading to chain laws on mountain passes, canceled flights at the Durango-La Plata County Airport and an early decision to close schools Tuesday by the Durango, Bayfield, and Ignacio school districts.
Mountain Middle School, Animas High School and Fort Lewis College also canceled classes Tuesday. The branch libraries located at Fort Lewis Mesa and Sunnyside Elementary schools will be closed. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe closed its offices Tuesday and plans to reopen for normal business hours Wednesday.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a winter storm warning that remains in effect until 6 p.m. Tuesday.
A snow gauge near Edgemont, northeast of Durango, recorded 8 inches of snow about 2:30 p.m. Monday, and a gauge in Wildcat Canyon reported nearly a foot of snow as of 12:30 p.m.
Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said snowfall will continue on and off through Tuesday evening. He said a particularly strong band of winter weather will likely hit early Tuesday with another round of heavy snow.
“It’s not getting out of here anytime soon,” Phillips said.
#Snow showers will continue across the San Juans and southern valleys through Tuesday afternoon. #Travel across mountain passes will become hazardous at times due to slippery roads and low visibilities. Then more snow later in the week is expected! #COwx #UTwx pic.twitter.com/eSk9aA96S3— NWS Grand Junction (@NWSGJT) February 18, 2019
In the high country and around the towns of Silverton, Hesperus, Rico, Telluride, Ouray and Lake City, could receive up to 20 inches of accumulation. Weather gauges atop Molas and Red Mountain pass are updated in the mornings, so it was unclear how much snow fell during the day Monday.
The winter storm warning includes all of the San Juan Mountains, as well as the Abajo and La Sal mountains in Utah.
Throughout the region, the weather service said travel could be difficult. Wind chills could reach as low as 20 below.
Chain and traction laws went into effect Monday morning for Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes. As of 4:30 p.m., the laws were still in effect.
E. 8th Avenue, the front hill leading to Fort Lewis College, has been closed due to deteriorating road conditions. Please use Goeglein Gulch Road. pic.twitter.com/Hlv1PJTUmu— FLC Police (@FLCPolice) February 18, 2019
The “front hill” leading to Fort Lewis College on East Eighth Avenue was closed because of deteriorating road conditions. Drivers are asked to use Goeglein Gulch Road. The campus also closed early around 2:30 p.m. Monday.
At the Durango-La Plata County Airport, several arriving and departing flights were canceled, according to the airport’s website. Airport director Tony Vicari said crews were doing a good job keeping the runway open.
“But as the storm’s intensity picks up, we could see extended delays,” he said.
Calls to the Durango Police Department and Colorado State Patrol were not returned.
The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook page that power outages are likely. During the last snowstorm, nearly 25,000 La Plata Electric Association customers lost power.
Residents can report an outage or receive updates about an outage by calling LPEA at 247-5786. As 4:30 p.m. Monday, about 8 customers were without power north of Durango, according to LPEA’s outage viewer map.
The storm is expected to leave the region by Tuesday night, and NWS’s Phillips said Wednesday is expected to be mostly sunny.
Another storm is expected to blow into the region Thursday, but the weather service said it is too early to forecast snow totals.
Jeff Givens, a self-taught weather observer in Durango with a Facebook following of 8,100 people, said it could be a “major storm.”
“The models are still leaning towards higher totals with that one,” Givens posted to his website.