An unusual late-summer rain and snowstorm arrived in Southwest Colorado on Tuesday afternoon, highlighting a topsy-turvy few days for weather in the region.
Although record high temperatures weren’t broken over the Labor Day weekend, Durango remained in the upper 80s and lower 90s as hot and dry conditions gripped the region.
To make matters worse, smoke from out-of-state wildfires in northeastern Utah and California settled over Southwest Colorado on Monday, prompting air-quality alerts in La Plata, Montezuma, San Juan and Dolores counties, among others.
But in a complete turnaround, temperatures dropped dramatically and precipitation started to fall over the region Tuesday driven by a strong cold front, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
For the high country around the San Juan Mountains, a winter storm warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Wednesday.
During this time, heavy snow is expected, with totals up to 12 inches possible, mostly above elevations of 9,000 feet. Locally, higher amounts are possible. Wind gusts could reach up to 40 mph, and travel is expected to be affected.
In Silverton, daytime highs are expected to be in the low to mid-40s and overnight temperatures are predicted to drop to the mid to upper 20s throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the NWS.
While #TeamCDOT plows are out in force clearing roads, ALL drivers must do their part & have appropriate tires for winter driving, take it slow, & leave plenty of room behind the vehicle ahead. Go to https://t.co/uOU0HHbUQ6 for the latest road conditions. #KnowBeforeYouGo #cotrip pic.twitter.com/RshX31L9dB— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) September 9, 2020
By 2 p.m. Tuesday, webcams managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation in the high country already showed snow accumulations around Lizard Head, Red Mountain and Molas passes.
About 3 p.m., CDOT had implemented a chain law for commercial vehicles on Red Mountain Pass between Silverton and Ouray.
Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman for CDOT, said a big-rig truck became stuck on Red Mountain Pass on Tuesday afternoon after roads became snowpacked and the vehicle needed chains.
Schwantes said a snowplow came through and cleared the highway, which allowed the truck to follow the plow down to Ouray without incident.
As of 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, CDOT had three plows working Red Mountain Pass, she said.
The chance for snow in the high country remains until at least Friday.
In Durango, precipitation is expected to remain as rain with the chance for thunderstorms throughout the week. Daytime highs should remain in the mid-50s to low 60s, and overnight lows in the mid to upper 30s.