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Heavy rainstorms expected Wednesday and Thursday

Precipitation provides last push of moisture heading into fall season
About 5.7 inches of rain has been reported at the Durango-La Plata County Airport since June 1, almost a 2-inch increase from 2021. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Southwest Colorado could see 1 to 2 inches of rain over the next two days, according to the National Weather Service.

The forecast for Wednesday and Thursday shows heavy rain beginning Wednesday and continuing through Thursday.

“It looks like Wednesday and Thursday, the potential for heavy rain is high – or at least the potential for a prolonged soaking rain,” said Kris Sanders, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The forecast shows similar results for Montezuma County – there’s a 90% chance of rain Wednesday through Thursday. A flood watch has been issued in Cortez and its surrounding areas.

Heavy rain is also expected on Wednesday and Thursday in Pagosa Springs. Forecasts show a 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms that will carry on through Thursday night. The Weather Service has issued a flood watch for the Pagosa Springs area through Thursday night.

It’s been a better monsoon season than last year, with 5.7 inches of rain at the Durango-La Plata County Airport since June 1, compared with 3.7 inches in 2021.

A SNOTEL near Purgatory Resort showed the high country received 9.5 inches of rainfall in 2022, compared with 6.5 inches in 2021, Sanders said.

But don’t count on a wet, cool fall in Southwest Colorado.

“We look at the Climate Center prediction, and the signal there is showing that the chances for below-normal precipitation this fall are higher than above-normal precipitation,” Sanders said.

Still, the monsoonal rain could improve a melting snowpack in spring: the damper the soil, the better the spring runoff.

“I know it helps the drought. Typically when you are in a big drought, and then you get the snowpack to start melting, more of it’s going to get soaked up into the soil as opposed to running off down the creeks and rivers,” Sanders said.

Projections show that Southwest Colorado is headed toward another La Niña winter, meaning it could be a down year for snowfall.

La Niña refers to the periodic cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific Ocean. The phenomenon can cause cold and stormy weather patterns across the northern United States and warmer, less stormy conditions in southern areas.

“Typically, a La Niña winter doesn’t fare too well as far as snowfall for the season. It tends to be on the lower-than-normal side,” Sanders said.

This may indicate warmer early winter months with more snow arriving at the end of the season.