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Area forecast: Drier and warmer

Storm helps ski areas, snowpack

This weekend’s snowstorm was welcomed by ski resorts, but it likely was the last significant wet weather for at least 10 days, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.

By Saturday afternoon, the storm dumped about 11 inches of new snow on Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort. Wolf Creek received 21 inches of fresh powder from the storm, the resort reported.

Silverton Mountain received 8 inches of snow, giving it a mid-mountain base of 80 inches. Hesperus also received 8 inches and now has a 48-inch base. The area will begin its spring hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.

The San Juan Mountains received as much as 10 to 20 inches, especially at higher elevations, NWS meteorologist Dennis Phillips said. The system, which is fairly typical of spring storms, was expected to clear the area and move to the east by Saturday night, he said.

“This is the time of year they can do fairly well” in bringing much-needed moisture, Phillips said.

Wolf Creek reported its summit base was at 95 inches by Saturday, with 85 inches at midway, according to a resort email. Purgatory reported its midway depth at 61 inches as of Saturday morning.

Overnight, the Colorado Department of Transportation imposed chain restrictions on mountain passes, but by midday Saturday, most of those restrictions had been lifted.

Phillips, based in the weather service’s Grand Junction office, said the system picked up some significant moisture in California before hitting the area. The thunderstorms associated with this weekend’s event also are indicative of wetter systems, he said.

Because of the relatively warm temperatures and high moisture content, not as much of the snow was sticking on the roads during the day, or was melting off fairly quickly in some areas, he said.

Despite the storm, “we’re still lagging behind” in snowpack Phillips said.

Despite cool temperatures today, the rest of the week is expected to warm up, with a high of about 60 in Durango by Thursday, he predicted.

Phillips also said the monthly and three-month outlooks call for above-normal temperatures, but it’s still too early to clearly predict an early fire season.

The start date and intensity of the fire season depends on several factors, including how quickly the snow melts, when the monsoon season actually starts and how much moisture it carries. The monsoon season usually starts in early July.

For most of the San Juan Mountains and Durango area, Phillips said, this has been a “neutral” season for moisture. But the rest of the Colorado River Basin to the southwest has suffered below-normal moisture, he said.

He said that there appears to be a slight chance of snow in some areas toward the end of next weekend, but because the ground is warming up, any snowfall is unlikely to stick except at higher elevations.

rgalin@durangoherald.com