Storm brings failed power, headaches for drivers

Happy skiers counteract inconvenienced residents; new front expected today

Heavy, wet snow throughout La Plata County whitened the ski areas, but also caused traffic accidents, led to avalanche warnings and is likely the cause of scores of electrical outages affecting 2,700 electric customers by Sunday morning.

The National Weather Service predicts more snow in the area, including more than a foot in the San Juan Mountains north of Hermosa by Tuesday morning. But the wet snow also is bringing with it significant avalanche danger.

Because this weekends heavy, wet snow fell on top of a foot of dense snow and was accompanied by southwest winds, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a severe avalanche warning for the south San Juan Mountains, La Plata Mountains, Needle Mountains and the Grenadier Range. That warning was due to be re-evaluated today.

The weather service said the new storm that continues through tonight will bring with it stronger winds, with gusts up to 40 to 50 mph.

Chances for snow remain through Tuesday in Durango, and are expected to fall to about 20 percent by Tuesday night, the weather service reported. Lows in Durango will remain in single digits and highs will range in the 20s and low to mid 30s.

A chance of snow remains in the weather service forecast for the San Juan Mountains through Thursday.

Blowing snow across some roads, particularly in open areas, covering icy sections of road could be a problem, the weather service said.

Accidents

The weather contributed to an eventful weekend on the roads.

Ronda Edwards, 53, of Durango, was taken to Mercy Regional Medical Center Saturday afternoon after her 1991 red Toyota pickup was pushed onto its side against a guardrail on U.S. Highway 160 at mile marker 75, just east of Lake Durango.

The accident occurred about 3:30 p.m., said Colorado State Patrol Trooper Josh Lewis. Edwards did not have life-threatening injuries despite having to be extracted from the vehicle.

The pickup was hit by a silver 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser driven by Durango resident Lucinda Lieberman, 57. A trooper on scene Saturday said it appeared Lieberman lost control on the snow-slicked road, and the vehicle hydroplaned into the pickup.

Lewis said Lieberman was not transported to the hospital. He also said there were no signs of drugs or alcohol as factors.

Power outages

Heavy, wet snow led to power outages.

La Plata Electric Association said its largest power outage hit 986 customers at 6:48 a.m. Sunday in the Pine River Valley area that includes north Bayfield and Vallecito, the company reported in a news release.

Another outage shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday affected 575 customers for about 29 minutes on north Florida Road (County Road 240) and subdivisions including Enchanted Forest and Aspen Trails, LPEA said.

The less-populated North Animas Valley to the San Juan County line also experienced a number of individual outages, with a 50-customer outage in the Haviland-Electra lakes area being the largest, LPEA said.

The company said it expected to receive additional outage reports on the southwest side of La Plata County, though no such outages had been verified by Sunday morning.

Only two outages, affecting 26 LPEA customers, were reported in Archuleta County.

Ski areas

Meanwhile, Wolf Creek Ski Area received 17 inches of snow by Sunday morning, the ski area reported. That new snowfall put the summit base depth at 63 inches and midway base depth at 56 inches. Season-to-date, Wolf Creek has received 172 inches of snow.

The area will host Local Appreciation Day on Wednesday. Lift tickets will be $35 for adults and $20 for senior citizens and children, and no identification is required.

All Wolf Creek lifts operate from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. Wolf Creek said the full Nordic Track was groomed Jan. 16.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort reported 15 inches of snowfall by Sunday morning. Season-to-date snowfall is 100 inches, and the mid-mountain depth is 46 inches of powder-packed powder. DMR has 85 trails and nine lifts open.

rgalin@durangoherald.com

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