Snow? Maybe yes, maybe no

Storm could bring showers today

It’s occurring a week later than last year, but Durango could see its first snow of the 2012-13 winter late today.

But it won’t be much, and it won’t last. Clearing should begin Saturday, with sun and clear skies carrying through Wednesday,

Showers and thunderstorms can be expected throughout the day today. The low temperature tonight will be around 27.

The weather is changing, but lower elevations in Southwest Colorado probably will remain pretty dry, said Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Durango will see rain but little else, Phillips said.

“I can’t rule out a snowflake in Durango because thunderstorms could cool things enough for snow,” Phillips said. “But any accumulation of snow should be above 8,000 feet.”

The thrust of the weather front moving through will be well to the north, Phillips said.

An online weather service map indicates the same. The Western Slope south of Vail and Aspen shows a winter storm advisory; to the north the map shows a more onerous weather storm watch.

Approaching winter storms will allow the National Weather Service to test its new Doppler radar network.

The new Dual-Polarization Doppler Radar is expected to distinguish rain, snow and hail and more accurately calculate the amount of precipitation.

The old radar emitted horizontal impulses that indicate speed and direction of precipitation. The upgraded version emits vertical impulses, as well, to tell meteorologists what type of precipitation they’re seeing.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort at 9,000 feet elevation is anticipating snow, said Kim Oyler, director of communications.

The resort is scheduled to start making snow Nov. 1, Oyler said. Opening day will be Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving.

“The weather is changing,” Oyler said. “If we have an El Niño winter (water temperatures in the South Pacific that affect weather elsewhere), we could have heavy snow in Southwest Colorado.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation is ready for any eventuality, agency spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said.

Crews can plow snow or spread a sand-salt mixture, according to the situation, Shanks said.

If rain freezes, highways will be slick, Shanks said. She advised caution.

daler@durangoherald.com

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