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Atmospheric river presents opportunity for big weekend snow in Southwest Colorado

The San Juan Mountains could experience up to 2 feet of snow this weekend
More snow is on its way to Southwest Colorado this weekend. (Reuben Schafir/Durango Herald file)

Those traveling through the San Juan Mountains this weekend may want to tread carefully, as the higher elevations are expecting to receive 1 to 2 feet of snow Thursday night through Saturday.

It’s been relatively warm for this time of year, and this weekend’s storms may present opportunities for both rain and snow.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Matthew Aleksa says the weekend storm will likely bring between 2 and 5 inches of snow to Durango.

Durango could experience up to an inch of rain before it turns to snow.

Pagosa Springs is likely to accumulate roughly 4 inches of snow, while Cortez is likely to see less snow than Durango.

“The snow levels will be pretty high just because it's going to be a warmer system and not as much colder arriving with it until Friday into Saturday,” Aleksa said.

Aleksa said the warmer temperatures are a sign of an El Nino winter.

“The ocean temperatures are warmer during El Nino and so it's picking up on that moisture from that warm water and pulling it up through the area,” Aleksa said.

The storm is coming from an atmospheric river off the Pacific coast, which normally results in pretty significant snowfall for Southwest Colorado.

However, temperatures could also impact how much snow sticks to the ground and makes measuring accumulation tricky.

The storm will be the start of a potential stretch of moisture that could present more opportunities for snow next week.

Aleksa says the weekend storm will fade Sunday, but more opportunities for snow will start again during the middle of next week.

NWS has administered winter storm warnings throughout Southwest Colorado for Thursday through Saturday.

“If you're planning on traveling just you know, be aware that the conditions travel can be very hazardous, especially over the passes and in the mountains there may be rain in the valleys and then it quickly changes over the snow within a few feet,” Aleksa said.

Areas north of Durango along the U.S. Highway 550 corridor are listed as “moderate” avalanche danger as of Thursday.


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