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Arctic blast dumps 10-15 inches in Durango, more in the mountains

At least three more storms expected this week
City of Durango road crews piled a mound of snow in the middle of Main Avenue early Monday during snow-removal operations. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald)

An intense arctic storm dumped 10-15 inches of fluffy snow in Durango on Sunday and early Monday, resulting in snow-packed roads and school cancellations.

“It came from the Arctic, so typically those systems do tend to be drier and colder,” said Megan Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “That really increases snow ratios and we're able to get those light, fluffy, powdery snow showers.”

A pair of snow-covered shoes hang from a wire on Monday in downtown Durango after an artic storm dumped 10-15 inches in town. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald)

Durango and Ignacio school districts canceled classes early Monday, while Bayfield School District was on a two-hour delay. Montezuma-Cortez and Dolores schools also announce two-hour delays Monday.

Sanders said the storm included areas of instability in the atmosphere, which resulted in bands of snowfall that resulted in more accumulation in some areas.

Snow totals from across the region included about 20 inches near Hesperus; about 19 inches on Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes; 18 inches at Purgatory Resort; 2 feet on Wolf Creek Pass; 12 inches on Lizard Head Pass; 14 inches in the Bayfield area; 3-7 inches in Cortez; 15 inches south of Dove Creek; 5-10 inches near Mancos; and 10-15 inches in Pagosa Springs, with up to 20 inches in the foothills around Pagosa.

By Monday morning, Jim Andrus, weather watcher in Cortez for the National Weather Service, said 5 inches of snow was on the ground Monday morning. Cortez received 3.5 inches of snow this weekend on the heels of 4.7 inches on Thursday.

Despite the heavy snowfall, no mountain passes were closed Monday morning, with the exception of Wolf Creek Pass, which had a planned closure for avalanche mitigation. Wolf Creek closed at 5:30 a.m. and reopened by 7 a.m. Monday, said Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes.

“We had a lot of snow come down in Southwest Colorado,” Schwantes said. “Despite that, I’m pleased to say we did not have any safety closures that were put in place. All of our crews, particularly on the mountain passes, were able to keep up with the snow that fell.”

Wind blows snow off the roof of the Central Hotel on Monday in downtown Durango. (Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald)

At least three more storm systems are expected to roll into Southwest Colorado this week, beginning as early as Tuesday night when a storm will bring more snow to the San Juan Mountains.

“You guys in Durango, you might get a little bit of snow (a few inches), but that’s really not until Wednesday night,” Sanders said. “(It’s) nothing like we saw with this last one because it is coming from the northwest and going to be favoring those northern mountain ranges.”

Another storm arrives Wednesday night or early Thursday, she said. That storm will dive farther south and carry a better chance of snow for Southwest Colorado, she said

Finally, a storm is expected to arrive late Saturday or early Sunday that should bring more snow. That storm was too far out for weather forecasters to know if it would result in big snow totals like last weekend’s storm or more moderate accumulations like the ones expected later this week, Sanders said.

Temperatures are expected to be cold this week, with lows in the single-digits or below zero. Highs are expected to be in the mid- to upper-20s, potentially reaching the low 30s by the end of the week.

“Much of the Western United States and even the Midwest is being dominated by this really strong Arctic air mass,” Sanders said. “And so that is bringing significantly below normal temperatures.”

A winter storm dumped nearly 2 feet of snow Sunday and early Monday on Red Mountain Pass between Silverton and Ouray, and 10-15 inches in Durango. (Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation)

With so many storm systems coming down the pipeline, Sanders reminded residents to check forecasts, including road conditions and avalanche reports, to be aware of the latest conditions.

“Prepare your car for any sort of winter travel – make sure you have an emergency kit – things like that,” she said.

Schwantes said snowplow crews work to keep lanes of travel open during storms, but when skies clear they shift their focus to the shoulder areas to remove snow that has piled up there.

“Even though the skies are blue, our crews are still working on moving snow,” she said.


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