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Storm brings wet snow, avalanches

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Ahead of expected freezing temperatures and more winter weather, Mike Clark of John’s Service spreads a deicer on the Eighth Street sidewalk along the Graden Building on Monday morning. The storm that brought heavy, wet snow to Southwest Colorado should leave the area by this evening.

By Dale Rodebaugh Herald staff writer

The storm that triggered avalanches, power outages and traffic accidents Sunday and Monday in Southwest Colorado is expected to blow out of the region today.

Area weather watchers said the storm’s wet, heavy snow – “slush” was a common description – didn’t leave a big pile of snow as much as produce a good amount of liquid.

Briggen Wrinkle reported 0.31 inches of precipitation Saturday, 1.01 on Sunday and 0.62 inches Monday – a total of 1.94 inches – in Durango.

Pam Snyder in Hesperus said the multi-day storm left 1.79 inches of water in her gauge; Bill Butler in Rafter J recorded 1.98 inches of precipitation, and Maureen Keilty, also in Rafter J, had 2.02 inches. Sandy Young recorded 1.91 inches of liquid on Florida Mesa about five miles south of Farmington Hill.

A winter storm warning, which means snow and strong wind, was in effect until 9 p.m. Monday. Accumulations of 1 to 3 inches of new snow was possible Monday night before the bluster gives way to sunshine and clouds that will share the skies through Sunday, according to the forecast of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Temperatures are expected to warm slightly.

But the latest storm, characterized by water-laden snow, was not gentle.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. Highway 550 north of Coal Bank Pass at Lime Creek Monday morning to clear several natural slides. Crews triggered several other slides as a precaution.

Gates on Highway 550 at Cascade and Silverton were closed at 9:30 a.m. and were open by Monday evening.

The natural slides at Lime Creek that reached the highway reached 300 to 400 feet in length and were 10 feet deep, CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said.

Avalanche control also was done on Molas, Lizard Head and Wolf Creek passes, she said.

Highway 550 will be closed at 8 a.m. this morning at Red Mountain Pass. Shanks didn’t know how long the closure would last.

The slide, at Lime Creek, didn’t prevent skiers and snowboarders from reaching Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort.

There were no slides on Red Mountain, Molas or Wolf Creek passes, but avalanche control work was done as a preventive measure.

The wet snow downed power lines, keeping La Plata Electric Association crews hopping Monday for the second consecutive day.

At one time Monday morning, 23 small outages were affecting 225 customers, the majority in Vallecito and Bayfield neighborhoods, said LPEA spokeswoman Indiana Reed.

The same areas also were the hardest hit Sunday, Reed said. In one 24-hour period, nearly 900 customers in the Bayfield-Vallecito area were in the dark.

Cellular and radio towers in Durango Hills were knocked out Sunday and got power back at 2 p.m. Monday. Crews were at the site for 26 hours, Reed said.

Among the customers: the U.S. Forest Service, Quest and Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

The weather service expects high temperatures in the region will range from 32 to 39 degrees from today into Sunday. Lows from 4 to 9 degrees are expected.

Travelers can dial 511 or visit cotrip.org to check road and weather conditions.


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