Residents of Southwest Colorado spent Friday digging out from a series of winter storms that dumped more than 4 feet of
snow this week in some locations.
The snow began flying Monday evening and continued for four consecutive days with periodic interruptions. A total of
three storms passed through the region with 12- to 18-hour breaks between each one. As of Friday morning, Durango had
received 35 inches over the preceding four days. As of Friday afternoon, Pagosa Springs reported 31.3 inches, Durango
West II subdivision 39.7 inches, and Wolf Creek Pass 48 inches.
The 35 inches is also Durango's total for January, which is more than twice the average January snowfall of 16.9
inches. The historical record for snowfall in January occurred in 1916 when 74 inches fell. The second- and
third-highest snowfalls for January occurred in 1980 when 58½ inches fell and in 1957 when 58 inches fell.
Schools in Bayfield, Ignacio and Durango were closed Friday, as were several government offices and programs.
Four of the five major mountain passes in Southwest Colorado - Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain and Wolf Creek - closed
Thursday night and remained closed Friday evening. Lizard Head pass closed Thursday night and reopened Friday night.
Cumbres and La Manga passes also were closed, preventing drivers from taking an alternate route through New Mexico.
An avalanche 8 feet deep and 150 feet long covered U.S. Highway 160 a few miles west of Durango near Lightner Creek
Road, said Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Transportation. The slide had been removed as of
Friday afternoon. Snow from another avalanche reached Florida Road between East Third Avenue and Chapman Hill.
When we see them in town, we know it's bad," she said.
Few accidents were reported Friday in the region. The Colorado State Patrol responded to one accident near Pagosa
Springs and also to about five cars that slid off the road, a dispatcher said.
Today hasn't been too bad," the dispatcher said. I think it's just because all the (mountain) passes are closed and
nobody can get in or out."
The Durango-La Plata County Airport closed about 5 p.m. Thursday because of poor visibility and didn't reopen until
after 1 p.m. Friday. Airport crews cleared 8 inches of snow off the runway at 5 a.m. Friday and another 6 inches by
mid-morning, said Ron Dent, director of aviation.
The visibility was horrible," Dent said Friday afternoon. We've had absolutely nothing moving today."
Daryl Tomberlin and Julie Schultz were hopeful that 20 to 40 friends and family members could fly in Friday afternoon
in time for their 5 p.m. wedding at First United Methodist Church of Durango.
We're skiers, which is why we had it in the middle of the winter," Tomberlin said of the wedding. I didn't expect
this much snow, though. I'm good with it. We'll always remember the big snowfall of January 2010, because it was at
La Plata Electric Association reported only one storm-related power outage by Friday afternoon, at Tall Timber
Resort. The resort, located along the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, is closed for the season.
Sometime late Thursday night and early Friday morning, a two-hour outage affected 235 customers in the north Animas
Valley and a nine-hour outage hit 41 customers north of Vallecito.
Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Keith Owen was on a flight from Denver to Durango on Thursday afternoon.
The plane circled Durango-La Plata County Airport but could not land and was forced to return to Denver. Owen was
attempting to get back to Durango on Friday. He said he had been in contact with his staff about the weather and the
district's decision to close schools.
Several residents were unable make it home Thursday night and had to spend the night in Durango.
Zachary Glasgow stood at a trolley stop Friday morning on Main Avenue wearing the same clothes as the day before. He
spent Thursday night at a friend's home because he couldn't make it three miles north to his apartment on Animas View
Drive, where his car is stuck.
On craigslist.org, an online classifieds service, a Durango-area seller on Friday listed his 2001 Ford Focus station
wagon. Pictures show the car buried in snow. Buyers must bring shovel," the ad says. Offer $3,000 and the seller
will help dig."
Audrie Kolb, a front desk receptionist at the Strater Hotel on Main Avenue, said Snowdown Follies rehearsals were
held Thursday night at the hotel, and a few performers booked a room for the night instead of trying to go home.
An employee also spent the night at the hotel, as did several tourists who couldn't fly out of the airport, she said.
Durango resident Victoria Collette said her car has been buried in town by snowplows. She has slipped and fallen on
the ice twice, spilling her Durango Joe's coffee both times.
They are so good that they just give you a refill," she said.
For downtown businesses, the heavy snowfall has kept customers away during an already tough time, said Jim
Rockelmann, owner of Durango Music, 802 Main Ave.
It's bad," he said Friday morning. I think we'll probably end up closing (for the day). It's not even worth running
the lights right now."
But for area ski resorts, the snow is a boon.
Durango Mountain Resort was reporting 43 inches of new snow in 72 hours. Telluride received 21 inches for the week, and Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 48 inches for the week and a total of 237 inches for the season.
Weather forecasters predicted spotty snow showers today, with the storm blowing out by this evening.
We're in the wind-down phase of this weather system, but it's still significant in that it's still producing snow
and it's still accumulating," said Paul Frisbie, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
The high today is expected to reach the upper 20s or lower 30s. The low Sunday should be in the single digits with
temperatures reaching the upper 20s or lower 30s by midday.
The next good chance for snow is Tuesday night, according to the weather service.
By June, perhaps it will melt," Frisbie said.