The unusual early September storm that put a frosting on the peaks of the San Juan Mountains won’t have a second punch – with above-normal highs expected to return to Southwest Colorado by Wednesday.
“In Durango, Friday’s high will be about 70, on Saturday it will be in the mid-70s, and Sunday it will be in the high 70s. By midweek, you’ll be in the mid-80s with above-average highs,” said Matthew Aleska, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
A high-pressure system is expected to settle over the Four Corners on Friday afternoon – leading to a dry weekend and sunny, clear skies through at least Wednesday and probably longer.
The next chance of precipitation might come toward the end of next week, but computer weather models currently disagree about whether the storm will hit Southwest Colorado, Aleska said.
The multiday storm system that moved through Colorado came from Canada and migrated south as the jet stream sank south. The storm was more typical of late September conditions in Colorado, Aleska said.
“You see this in the transition from summer to winter, but it’s a couple of weeks early,” he said.
Few snow totals had come into the Weather Service, but Trout Lake south of Telluride reported 9 inches. Lake City reported 2 inches. The storm was stronger farther east in the state with Alamosa reporting 14 inches.
Snotel readings from the San Juan Mountains reported snowfall ranging from 6 inches to a foot, Aleska said.
At Durango-La Plata County Airport, only 0.45 of an inch of rain over 48 hours was reported from the storm as of Thursday afternoon.
Jim Andrus, a Cortez weather watcher, reported 0.93 of an inch of rain Tuesday and Wednesday at his house. Andrus said average annual rainfall for the end of September in Cortez is 9.33 inches. However, as of Thursday afternoon, Cortez had received only 5.52 inches this year.
“We’ve got a ways to go to catch up with rainfall,” he said.
Generally, it takes a season of above-average precipitation to change drought conditions, and Aleska said the storm was unlikely to make a dent in the extreme drought designation for Southwest Colorado from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Still, there was enough snow at Silverton Mountain for several ski patrollers to get in the season’s first turns, said Jen Brill, co-owner of the small, guided ski area that features steep backcountry terrain and heli-skiing.
“It wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for skiers to push up snow in front of their faces, and they found some pretty good spots,” Brill said.
Sheri Pohlman, owner of Handlebars Food & Saloon in Silverton, estimated a couple of inches fell in town, but she said it was hard to tell because it melted so fast, the storm coming after weeks of above-average temperatures.
“It did get us to dig out our coats and gloves,” she said.