Durango began the New Year with a blanket of snow that created treacherous driving conditions Thursday.
The heavy snowfall continued until about mid-afternoon. Durango recorded about 7 inches. An additional inch or less was likely to fall Thursday night, according to the National Weather Service.
Low nighttime temperatures are likely to create icy conditions and keep snow on the ground for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service. Officials urged drivers to slow down.
“Take it nice and easy. The plows are doing a great job. ... We just have to do ours as drivers,” said Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
In higher elevations, such as Lizard Head Pass and Red Mountain Pass, CDOT is preparing for 8 to 12 inches of snow by Friday morning, Shanks said.
Crews could be out doing avalanche control Friday morning depending on the need. She advised drivers to check cotrip.org if they plan to travel in the morning to make sure roads are clear.
Partly sunny skies are forecast for Friday, and the high is expected to be in the upper 20s, said Ben Moyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
“Friday will be a lot nicer, should be partly cloudy or mostly sunny,” Moyer said.
Slightly warmer weather is predicted through the weekend, with highs in the low to mid-30s, according to the weather service.
The Durango Police Department is hopeful the warm weather will help ease the number of snow-related incidents, Sgt. Rita Warfield said.
Police handled 12 snow-related incidents Thursday – including stranded drivers, fender-benders and hit-and-run incidents, Warfield said.
The Colorado State Patrol also was busy mostly with vehicles sliding off the road, said Capt. Adrian Driscoll.
In one instance, a vehicle slid off Colorado Highway 140 near Redmesa. A snowplow driver stopped to help the driver, causing another car to slide off the road and hit a telephone pole, he said. There were no major injuries and no citations.
While some of the highways were dangerous, most flights in and out of Durango-La Plata County Airport were on time.
Four flights between Durango and Dallas were canceled because of winter weather. It was unclear if the flights were canceled because of weather in Dallas or weather the plane might encounter along the way, said Aviation Director Kip Turner. One flight to Denver was also canceled Thursday evening.
While travel was sometimes dangerous Thursday, skiers and snowboarders who braved U.S. Highway 550 were treated to a powder day at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort and Silverton Mountain.
About 5 inches fell at DMR on Thursday, piling on top of the 19 inches that have fallen over the last week, said Kim Oyler, spokeswoman for the resort.
In Silverton, about 5 inches had fallen by late Thursday morning, and it still was snowing, said Jen Brill, co-founder of Silverton Mountain.
“In the last three weeks, I think there’s been way more snowy days than sunny,” she said about conditions on the mountain.
The storms, she said, have made for the best opening season in years.
The snow also may have contributed to a relatively quiet New Year’s Eve in Durango. Police did not have many DUI arrests, Warfield said.
“It sure could be the weather, but I’d like to think people are getting the message about staying home and not driving while intoxicated,” she said.