The first winter storm warning of the season was issued Monday for Southwest Colorado ahead of a storm that could dump a foot of snow or more in the high country north of Durango.
The National Weather Service said two disturbances will combine Tuesday night, creating a round of heavy snowfall favoring the San Juan Mountains.
As a result, the NWS has a winter storm warning in effect from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 11 p.m. Thursday for elevations above 8,500 feet.
During that time, anywhere from 12 to 20 inches may fall in high elevations. The NWS says some areas may even receive up to 30 inches of snow.
“Travel could be very difficult to impossible, especially over the high mountain passes,” the NWS wrote in its warning. “Expect hazardous winter driving conditions on all roads with snow-packed and icy roads and very poor visibility in heavy snow and occasional blowing snow.”
Southwest Colorado needs the moisture.
As of Monday, snowpack in the Animas, Dolores, San Juan and San Miguel river basins was at just 16% of historic averages.
Since Sept. 1, a weather station at the Durango-La Plata County Airport has recorded 1.6 inches of precipitation – down more than 2.6 inches from historic averages.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has Southwest Colorado listed in a “severe drought.”
In Durango, precipitation is expected arrive in the form of rain Tuesday night through Wednesday night. But on Thursday, the NWS says the moisture could turn to snow. The storm system is expected to leave the region after 4 p.m. Friday.