A break in winter storms allowed snowplows scrape down to the asphalt and school buses to roll out on their routes Tuesday morning.
Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio school districts were back in session after canceling classes Monday because of heavy snow.
The weather pattern calls for scattered snow showers Wednesday and into Friday when conditions start to change, said Chris Cupco a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Wolf Creek Pass on U.S. Highway 160 and Red Mountain Pass on U.S. Highway 550 were expected to have intermittent closures Tuesday for avalanche control work.
A new storm with plenty of precipitation is expected next weekend, Cupco said.
The wet winter storm that dumped as much as 39 inches of snow in the region through Monday has bumped up local snowpack totals, but not nearly enough to bring the region to average levels. The Animas, Dolores, San Juan and San Miguel river basins reported 64 percent of the median Monday, up from 56 percent mid-week last week.
The Nordic Center is reopening Wednesday morning. Hesperus Ski Area isn’t. And after a brief shining moment of golf in February, Hillcrest Municipal Golf Course is now closed again.
The Four Corners, including the southern San Juan Mountains and valleys, was expected to see 4 to 8 inches late Monday and early Tuesday, said Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
“There could be lingering snow after Tuesday through the week,” Aleksa said. “Then next weekend, there is a potential for significant snow.”
A third front could move into the area in the middle of the first week in March, Aleksa said, but that is too far out to forecast at this time.
High temperatures will be in the mid-30s through the week, with lows in the 20s.
An avalanche warning is in effect for the South San Juan Mountains through noon Tuesday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
The Colorado Department of Transportation will conduct avalanche mitigation on the south side of the Red Mountain Pass summit on Tuesday, CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. The pass will close at about 8 a.m. and remain closed until work is done. It might be several hours or the better part of the day, she said.
“I’d urge anyone who absolutely doesn’t have to travel, not to get on the highway,” Shanks said. “Highways can be icy and dangerous.”
Area passes had each received about 2 feet of snow by midday Monday, she said. Crews worked all day on avalanche mitigation, with the biggest slide 8 feet high on the center line and about 200 feet long.
Durango Fire Protection District also urged residents to drive on area roads only if necessary.
“City plow drivers are still hard at work,” the city said about 3:30 p.m. via Twitter and Facebook. “The break in snow and warmer temps have turned snowpack into slush. All major streets are down to blacktop, and crews are working on opening and clearing residential areas. Plow drivers will remain out tonight to clean up and push back snow.”
‘Bring your snorkel’
Monday’s big dump came as a relief to Southwest Colorado ski areas, which have suffered through several weeks of relatively dry weather.
Ski areas in the region all reported 2 feet or more of heavy, wet snow.
Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort reported receiving 25 inches in the past 24 hours, and 31 inches in the past 48 hours.
“This is fantastic for Purgatory,” Spokeswoman Kim Oyler said. “It really sets us up for an incredible spring in March. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
With all the fresh powder, Oyler had a tip for skiing the next few days: “Bring your snorkel.”
The wintery onslaught has raised the total snowfall at Purgatory for the season to 112 inches. But it will require almost double that amount to equal the 215 inches dropped in the winter of 2013-14.
And it’s still far off the 2007-2008 ski season that saw Purgatory receive 290 inches.
Wolf Creek Ski Area also reported receiving 25 inches in the past 24 hours, with 39 inches in the past 48 hours. Wolf Creek has received 204 inches to date.
Wednesday is a Local Appreciation Day at Wolf Creek, with $41 lift tickets for adults and $24 for seniors and children.
At Silverton Ski Area, 32 inches fell in the past 24 hours, and 36 inches arrived from the storm overall.
“We’ve been lucky in that we were able to be 100 percent open all season,” Silverton co-owner Aaron Brill said. But, he added, “This brings back the high-quality powder we’re known for.”
Closures and cancellations
Durango, Ignacio and Bayfield school districts canceled classes Monday because of inclement weather. Government offices closed or planned to open late.
Mountain Middle and Animas High schools – both charter schools – also canceled classes.
Also closed Monday were the Bayfield Library, Ignacio Library and Southwest Colorado Community College. San Juan Bank closed its two Durango branches and Pagosa Springs branch at 2 p.m. Monday, and several other businesses in Durango did not open for the day.
Fort Lewis College tried to tough it out Monday, but by 11 a.m. the college conceded to the unrelenting snowfall and canceled all classes.
Durango School District 9-R doesn’t cancel classes on whim, Superintendent Dan Snowberger said Monday.
“I’ve canceled classes only twice in the three years I’ve been here,” Snowberger said. “The first time was in January.”
When weather threatens, he and a half-dozen district department heads go out at about 4 a.m. to look at conditions in their own neighborhoods, Snowberger said. Information they gather is added to what bus-barn personnel and maintenance chiefs at individual schools are learning from their sources.
A sense of the big picture comes from comparing notes with Ignacio and Bayfield school officials and Butch Knowlton, director of emergency services for La Plata County, Snowberger said.
“We don’t take canceling classes lightly because of the impact on families,” he said. “But the safety of students is our first concern.”
A missed class day isn’t a big deal in terms of the school calendar, Snowberger said. The district has at least four days built in that allow for emergencies, he said. The district schedules more class days per year than required by the state.
Several flights, arrivals and departures, were canceled or delayed Monday at Durango-La Plata County Airport.
La Plata Electric Association was attending to nine outages as of noon impacting 138 customers total. The largest outages involved 56 customers on County Road 505 north of Bayfield and 53 customers on Oldhams Place in Archuleta County.
“It’s been amazingly quiet,” said Indiana Reed, spokeswoman for LPEA. “We’ve been surprised this heavy, wet snow hasn’t caused more problems, and obviously, we’ll be keeping a close eye on it through the night.”
Wet snow can affect electricity delivery in two ways, she said.
“Snow accumulated on power lines and trees will begin to unload, potentially causing momentary ‘blinks’ as the system analyzes and resets,” she said about warming temperatures throughout the day. And as the weight of the snow increases, branches and trees may be brought down, impacting lines.
On the legislative front
Leaders of the state Legislature canceled proceedings of both the House and Senate as a precautionary measure, noting icy roads around the state.
Closure of the Legislature delayed hearings on several high-profile pieces of legislation, including a Republican attempt to repeal a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Another contentious bill delayed by the closure would limit penalties on businesses in discrimination cases, including refusing service to gay people.
Those hearings will have to be rescheduled.
firstname.lastname@example.org. The Associated Press contributed to this story.