After a late-autumn rain at lower elevations Thursday, another storm system is expected to move into Southwest Colorado around midnight Saturday, and it holds at least a potential to leave some snow in the valleys.
Michael Charnick, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the system moving in from the Pacific Northwest will have more cold air with it and could leave a dusting to an inch of snow in Durango and Cortez and other lower elevations along the U.S. Highway 160 corridor.
Most of the precipitation, though, is expected to fall as rain or a rain-snow mix at lower elevations, he said.
“Down low, there’s likely to be minimal accumulations, maybe an inch, probably Monday morning,” he said.
The mountains above 8,500 feet in elevation could see between 4 to 8 inches of snow, he said.
The storm that brought rain to lower elevations Wednesday night and Thursday morning brought powder to the San Juan Mountains.
Purgatory Resort reported 6 inches of new snow as of 11 a.m. Thursday, and snow was expected all day. Purgatory was reporting a 36-inch base. Purgatory also plans to open Lift 3 this weekend, the earliest season opening for this lift ever, said Sam Williams, senior director of mountain operations.
Telluride Ski Area on Thursday reported 2 inches of new snow. Telluride was reporting a 30-inch base.
Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 6 inches of new snow in the previous 24 hours, with a 39-inch base Thursday morning.
Silverton had 2 inches of new snow Thursday morning.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center was reporting a moderate threat of avalanches in the San Juan Mountains on Thursday.
Partly cloudy skies with no precipitation are expected in Southwest Colorado on Friday and Saturday.
The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to perform avalanche-control work on U.S. Highway 550 on Red Mountain Pass beginning at 10 a.m. Friday. Drivers should expect several periodic long closures of up to one hour for much of the day, according to a CDOT news release.
Operations will take place on the north side of Red Mountain Pass. Northbound traffic will be stopped at the summit of the pass at mile marker 80. Southbound traffic will be held near Ironton at mile marker 84.
Most snow is expected Sunday through the evening, with the system clearing out of the region late Sunday or early Monday, with perhaps stray snow squalls providing some high-elevation snow early Monday, Charnick said.
According to the Weather Service, storm patterns could continue in December because a ridge over much of the western U.S. has broken down – allowing storms that were skirting north of the Four Corners to target the area.
On Thursday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snotel map reported snowpack in the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel river basins was 109% of the 30-year average.