U.S. Highway 550 on Red Mountain Pass is closed after receiving more than a foot of snow overnight, with more snowfall expected Thursday.
The Colorado Department of Transportation closed the mountain pass between Silverton and Ouray at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. Travel in both directions will remain closed until further notice.
CDOT suggests traveling on Colorado Highway 145 past Telluride as an alternate route.
“Crews on Red Mountain reported conditions were terrible. There was low visibility, high winds and snow coming down. They had received at least a foot at 6 a.m. and they expected more,” said Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman with CDOT.
Chain laws and travel restrictions were in place for Coal Bank, Molas, Wolf Creek and Lizard Head passes.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a heightened avalanche watch for the San Juan Mountains. Avalanche danger is expected to be high as a result of heavy snowfall and strong winds.
First day of spring
A winter storm moved through the area on the first day of sping Thursday leaving several inches of snow in the Animas Valley and more than a foot of snow in the San Juan Mountains.
La Plata Electric Association reported multiple outages Thursday morning caused by heavy, wet snow.
The outage affecting the most customers was at the Bayfield substation, serving about 3,200 customers. Power went down about 6 a.m. and was restored about 8:30 a.m.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 400 customers remained without power.
Hillary Knox, spokeswoman for LPEA, said as the snow melts, it can fall from trees and snap power lines. As a result, outages are unpredictable and countywide.
“It’s shifting quickly,” she said.
Crews were working throughout the day to restore power, which Knox said is a relatively simple fix.
Given the cold weather and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, LPEA is prioritizing the outages affecting the most people and any critical infrastructure.
Members can report outages at 247-5785 and hit option 5 to report an outage. They can also report outages via text by signing up for LPEA’s Outage Texting Service at lpea.coop/ots.
CDOT said it is possible avalanche work may occur on Coal Bank, Lizard Head, Molas, Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes, which could cause lengthy delays. The latest road conditions can be found at COtrip.org.
Tom Renwick, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said reports of 3 to 6 inches of snow have come in from areas around Durango, and Cortez received about 3 inches.
The high country can expect up to 16 inches, and snow is expected to continue all day in the San Juan Mountains and into Friday with a chance of snow extending into Saturday.
Renwick said Durango and Cortez might see rain later Thursday with a chance of snow Thursday night.
A winter storm warning is in place for the San Juan Mountains including the towns of Silverton, Rico and Hesperus through midnight Thursday. The winter storm warning expects additional snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches with winds gusting as high as 40 mph.
Durango Police Department Sgt. Will Sweetwood said road conditions are wet in town, but he reported no crashes. He estimated about 6 inches of snow had fallen in Durango.
Forest Lakes received about 10 inches, Sweetwood said.
Renwick reported Cascade had received 12 inches and Hesperus 9 inches of snow at 6 a.m.