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‘Pineapple Express’ drops white fruit on the San Juans

Zach Hofsetz found himself caught in a mixture of rain and snow while making a delivery for Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches on Saturday afternoon at the intersection of Main Avenue and 14th Street. “It’s good for snow lovers,” National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Malingowski said of Saturday’s forecast. “I’m one of them.”

Finally, it’s beginning to look a lot like winter, at least in some places.

Snow in the higher country was a welcome sight for many, especially skiers at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort on Saturday. Now open for full-time operations, the white weather came just in the nick of time.

After the infamous weather event known as the “Pineapple Express” hit California, a wrath of rain – as much as 2 inches in an hour – caused flooding, mudslides and more than 100 automobile accidents. Meteorologists were calling the long, narrow storm a “river in the sky.” There were swift-water rescues and even a reported tornado in the Los Angeles area that ripped roofs off businesses. In the state’s Sierra Nevada, 3 feet of snow was reported, as were white-out conditions, and the harsh weather left people stranded.

In Southwest Colorado, in the wake of the same storm, it won’t add up to feet, but several inches of accumulation are expected out of the system that will taper off by Monday, National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Malingowski said.

“It looks like we’re expecting about 2 to 5 inches below 6,500 feet, right around Durango,” she said about Saturday night’s forecast. “As you go up, there will be more.”

On Saturday in Durango, a cold rain intermittent with scattered snow flurries fell in the afternoon.

The San Juans could see as much as 8 or more inches of snow in places and the state’s central mountains up to a foot.

“There may be higher amounts locally in higher elevations,” Malingowski said.

She called the storm short but said the Western Slope will stay in an active pattern this week.

“It’s good for snow lovers,” she said. “I’m one of them.”

A winter weather advisory and hazardous weather outlook will remain in effect until noon Sunday in the region.

While there will be a break in the pattern Monday, with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 40s, more weather is on deck.

“By Tuesday afternoon we have a chance of showers, and then we have another storm coming in on Wednesday that could be good for the Durango area,” Malingowski said.

For the last several weeks, many locals have enjoyed pleasant temperatures, and the trails and paths have seen heavy traffic from those hiking, riding and running the shoulder season into the holidays. While many are accustomed to waxing their skis this time of year, lately, more were pumping up their bicycle tires.

Catherine Vogel of Mountain Bike Specialists in Durango said she’s had a hard time thinking about the slopes during an extended riding season.

“It’s pretty insane,” she said. “I keep wanting to go skiing, but I can’t find the motivation to when the weather is so nice to go ride.”

Although the snow is falling this weekend, weather service forecasters are leaning toward a drier December, January and February, and then predicting higher than normal precipitation in March and April.

bmathis@durangoherald.com

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