CORTEZ – An major 48-hour snowstorm in Montezuma County will taper off today in the lower elevations, but could hang on into the evening in the mountains.
“It is winding down, but there could be lingering snowfall into the afternoon east and northeast of Cortez,” Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Friday morning.
A winter storm warning remained in effect until 5 p.m.
Cortez could see 1 to 2 inches of snow Friday, and temperatures were expected to climb into the low 30s.
As of Friday morning, the approximate 48-hour storm totals were: Cortez, 5-7 inches; Dolores, 12 inches; Dove Creek, 16 inches; Hesperus, 24 inches; and Durango, 16 inches. The Mancos Snotel at 10,000 feet in the La Plata Mountains had a 48-hour storm total of 18 inches.
Overnight, the storm also hit Towaoc, dumping 6 inches of fresh snow, compared with about 2 inches in Cortez, Sanders said.
The Weminuche Creek area east of Vallecito Reservoir saw a 48-hour storm total of 50 inches of snow. Meanwhile on Thursday, Flagstaff, Arizona, set a 24-hour snowfall record of 35.6 inches, he said.
The cold air mass and slow-moving storm created ideal snowfall conditions.
“It moved slow, and upslope winds captured a lot of moisture that fell as snow,” Sanders said.
The weather will dry out beginning this weekend into next week, with high temperatures in the 30s and 40s.
School districts throughout Southwest Colorado canceled classes Thursday based on a forecast that called for 6 to 12 inches of snow. Montezuma-Cortez and Dolores schools also canceled classes for Friday. Mancos and Dove Creek schools are on a four-day week and were off on Friday.
Avalanche dangerThe Colorado Avalanche Information Center announced on Thursday that threat of snowslides in the southern San Juan Mountains increased to “high,” which is Level 4 based on a scale of 1 to 5.
The most dangerous areas were near the La Plata Mountains, which had more than 20 inches of snow as of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Areas farther west, from Coal Bank to Wolf Creek Pass, also were considered vulnerable to avalanches, and backcountry travel was not advised. On Friday, the avalanche threat in the southern San Juans remained “high.”
Digging out of drought
Because of recent precipitation, much of Southwest Colorado was degraded Thursday on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s drought scale. The Drought Monitor, which measures drought on a scale of D0 to D4 – “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought” – lowered the rating to D2 for Montezuma and La Plata counties, an improvement from last month. In April, before summer’s devastating wildfires in the Dolores and Durango areas, the Four Corners area was in “exceptional drought” at the highest level, D4. San Juan County remains in “extreme drought,” or Level D3.
Regional schoolsDurango, Bayfield, and Pagosa Springs school districts canceled classes Thursday and Friday. Fort Lewis College and Pueblo Community College in Mancos and Durango also canceled.
Regional roadsWolf Creek Pass on U.S. Highway 160 was closed Friday for winter maintenance at 6 a.m. and was reopened at 9:45 a.m.
Coal Bank and Molas Passes on U.S. Highway 550 were closed at 8 a.m. Friday until further notice. The south closure point was just north of Purgatory ski resort, and the north closure point was at Silverton.
Commercial and passenger chain and traction laws were in effect Friday morning on U.S. Highway 160 and 491 outside Cortez.
Ski areasTelluride Ski Resort on Friday reported 2 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours and 3 inches in the previous 48 hours. It has a 65-inch base at 11,880 feet.
Hesperus Ski Area on Thursday reported 15 inches of new snow in the previous 24 hours and 25 inches in the previous 48 hours, and a 36-inch base.
Purgatory Resort on Friday reported 24 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours and 31 inches in the previous 48 hours, and a 98-inch base.
Wolf Creek Ski Area on Friday reported 19 inches of snow in the previous 24 hours and 29 inches in the previous 48 hours. Its summit depth was 142 inches.
Other cancellationsThe Business After Hours event, sponsored by the Cortez Area Chamber of Commerce and scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wigglin’ Pig on West Main Street, has been canceled and will be rescheduled for a later date.The Cortez Public Library has postponed author Ron Cooper’s presentation of his book “It’s My Trail Too: A Comanche Indian’s Journey on the Cherokee Trail of Tears.”The Montezuma-Cortez art show reception scheduled for Friday evening has been canceled.