A midweek storm dumped 2 to 3 feet of snow across much of Southwest Colorado, busting the average and leading to near record amounts of snow for the month of February in Durango.
Schools were canceled three days this week, mountain passes were closed intermittently for avalanche mitigation and the drought listing was downgraded from “extreme” to “severe” across much of Montezuma and La Plata counties.
Residents will receive a reprieve from the snow and a chance to catch up on shoveling this weekend and the first part of next week. City workers plan to remove a massive snow berm Sunday night piled in the middle of Main Avenue in downtown Durango. Avalanche mitigation is expected on mountain passes around the region.
Snow totalsDuring the month of February, 48.9 inches of snow have fallen in Durango, said John Kyle, data acquisition program manager for the National Weather Service. Average snowfall in February for Durango is about 15 inches, he said. The record, set in 1911, is 57.6 inches for the month of February.
Snow totals varied greatly based on elevation gradients across La Plata County:
Purgatory Resort reported 2 feet of snow in 24 hours as of Friday morning. Derek Snyder, a cooperative weather observer for the National Weather Service in Hesperus, said he received 26½ inches from Tuesday to 7 a.m. Friday.
“I’ve been here 21 years, and this is the worst snow that I’ve seen,” Snyder said. “It’s tough.”
Larry Zauberis, a cooperative weather observer for the National Weather Service 5 miles south of Farmington Hill, said he received almost 2 feet since Tuesday. Zauberis used to work as a snowplow operator for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and said he hasn’t seen this much snow since the early to mid-1990s. “You can imagine, it’s getting to be a hassle,” he said.
Silverton and San Juan County, which typically receive more snow than Durango, received less than 2 feet of snow this week, said Freddie Canfield, a cooperative weather observer in Silverton. Canfield said he recorded 17.6 inches of snow from Feb. 16 to Friday in Silverton. The snow was up to the windows of his home, children ski to school and, if Canfield wants to get something from his garage, he puts on snowshoes, he said.Just south of downtown Durango, on Saw Mill Road, Bill Butler recorded almost 35 inches of snow since it began falling Wednesday, “and it’s still snowing pretty good,” he said about 11:45 a.m. Friday. It is the most snow he has seen in the past seven years, he said. Michael Davenport, a weather observer in Hermosa, reported 24 inches of snow since Wednesday evening.Kevin Heckman, a NWS and a Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network observer in lower Forest Lakes, recorded 0.52 inches of water and 10.9 inches of snow at 7 a.m. Friday. His snow depth at that time was 39 inches, he reported on Facebook.
Snow snarls transitCoal Bank and Molas passes on U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango were closed for much of the day Friday. Significant snow accumulations on mountain passes have caused snowbanks to slip into the road, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Snow routes are in effect for Durango, meaning vehicles parked on designated “important and necessary routes” will be towed.
Air travel largely unaffected
Durango-La Plata County Airport Director Tony Vicari said operations were largely unaffected. Some passengers had to deal with delays, but because most of the snow fell north of the airport, cancellations were largely avoided, Vicari said.
DRO airport and airline crews are well-equipped and trained to handle Colorado winters! We have been open and operating throughout this week's storms. Visit https://t.co/ulyycIBQmE to check for any delays. pic.twitter.com/Git4UDBsTL— Durango Airport (@DROAirport) February 22, 2019
What’s to comeWeather forecasters said the three-day storm was expected to move out of the region by midnight Friday, making way for clear skies through at least Wednesday. That should give city, county and state snow-removal crews a chance to catch up and fix equipment.
It will also give residents a chance to shovel driveways and sidewalks, and maybe even get in some skiing, sledding, snowshoeing and other winter activities.
“We’re not expecting much in the way of snow until we get past midweek (Wednesday),” said Matthew Aleksa, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.