People who were dreaming about a white Christmas came closer to getting their wish this weekend.
On Saturday, Durangoans woke up to a couple of inches of snow, but mountain passes have been hit by more significant amounts. All area passes – Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain on U.S. Highway 550 and Wolf Creek on U.S. Highway 160 – were reporting road conditions that were snowpacked, slushy and icy in spots. For much of the morning, chains were required on Wolf Creek, with whiteout conditions possible.
On Friday, the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service was calling for a winter weather advisory only in the mountains, but by Saturday morning, all of La Plata County as well as Pagosa Springs and environs had been included. Durango and Bayfield would see 2 to 4 inches before the advisory expired at 6 p.m., the weather service said.
We can credit the storms dumping moisture on the Pacific Northwest for the precipitation, said weather service meteorologist Megan Stackhouse.
“The systems coming out of the northwest are tending to split this winter,” she said, “with one part moving into the high plains and the other into the Great Basin, which is what we’re seeing.”
Because the rain is continuing to dump in the Pacific Northwest, are we going to see more storms?
“Hot on this one’s heels is another one dropping in into our area, and it will probably drop another 2 to 4 inches on Durango,” Stackhouse said. “It will be much colder. There’s another front potentially moving into the area Dec. 21, and in between the two, you’re still in a pretty unsettled pattern, with the potential for storms moving through.”
Ski conditions are already improving. Purgatory Resort reported 11 inches of fresh powder Saturday afternoon and a 30-inch base, with snow continuing to fall. The weather service says Purg may receive as much as 15 inches by Monday night. Five lifts and 46 percent of the area are now open.
Wolf Creek Ski Area had received 15 inches as of Saturday afternoon, with a 57-inch midway depth. The area is 100 percent open, and snow is continuing to fall. Silverton Mountain is not scheduled to open until Dec. 19 and is not reporting snow conditions.
Closer to home, area law enforcement responded to some crashes Saturday, but it wasn’t too bad on the highways, said Capt. Adrian Driscoll of the Colorado State Patrol.
East Eighth Avenue on the front hill up to Fort Lewis College was closed Saturday morning, but the ACT exam was held as scheduled.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said avalanche danger in the San Juan Mountains was increasing as the day went on Saturday, but it was still rated as moderate in the late afternoon.