A wet slushy snow fell in Durango on Sunday morning with precipitation coming as rain in Cortez as a winter storm moved through Southwest Colorado.
Snow is expected to last all day and into the early hours Monday morning in the San Juan Mountains.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory through 9 a.m. Monday for the San Juan Mountains with 6 to 12 inches of accumulation expected above 8,500 feet in elevation and up to 15 inches on higher peaks.
As of 9 a.m. Sunday, Red Mountain Pass had recorded 5 inches with up to 7 more inches expected by Monday, said Matthew Aleska, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Coal Bank and Molas passes each had reported 4 inches with another 5 inches expected by Monday, Aleska said.
“There are two components to the storm. The first wave came in from the south. That’s why you saw mostly rain in the valleys. A trough from the Pacific Northwest hit us Sunday morning, and it turned to snow in a lot of places including Durango,” Aleska said.
The winter weather advisory stated driving conditions are likely to be very difficult above 8,500 feet in elevation. Fog could limit visibility in places as well.
At 10 a.m. Sunday, the Colorado Department of Transportation was reporting snow and snowpacked roads on Wolf Creek, Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain and Lizard Head passes, but chain laws and winter driving restrictions were not in place.
Later Sunday, as temperatures warm, Aleska said Durango could see a rain-snow mixture with rain continuing in Cortez and snow should continue off and on through the day in the high country, he said.
“There could be a break in the storm Sunday afternoon, and you might see blue skies in Durango, but we’ll be hit with the back end of the storm Sunday night, and things could pick up again. You could see rain and maybe snow Sunday night in Durango depending on how cold it gets,” Aleska said.
Cortez weather watcher Jim Andrus reported a quarter-of-an-inch of rain as of 8 a.m., and it was still raining lightly early Sunday morning, he said.
La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Steve Reiter said numerous cars had slid off roads Sunday morning throughout the county, especially in the mountains north of Durango, but no injuries had been reported.
“We just had a ton of cars off the road and stranded motorists. At any elevation north of town, things were pretty bad,” Reiter said.
Aleska said a weak system that looks to be dry is expected to come through Southwest Colorado on Wednesday, but it is unlikely to have any precipitation with it.
The next chance for snow in Four Corners looks to be late Saturday into next Sunday, Dec. 15.