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Silverton is snowed-in with ‘extreme’ avalanche danger in the mountains

Spokeswoman says residents are prepared: ‘Locals actually kind of enjoy it’
Snow piles up near Silverton buildings Tuesday. The avalanche danger was rated as “extreme.” U.S. Highway 550 mountain passes have been closed since 5 p.m. Tuesday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The town of Silverton has been snowed in since Tuesday evening when the Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. Highway 550 over Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes.

And, the situation became a little more cramped Wednesday morning when county roads 2 and 110 were closed for avalanche danger. County Road 110 runs north of Silverton and County Road 2 runs northeast.

San Juan County spokeswoman DeAnne Gallegos said areas north of town are rated for extreme avalanche danger, and those roads have a high likelihood of avalanches.

Silverton Mountain Ski Area reported 22 inches of snowfall in two days.

“The last time we saw that type of avalanche level reported from the CAIC (Colorado Avalanche Information Center) was during the big winter of 2019,” Gallegos said.

In 2019, Country Road 2, which goes to Eureka, experienced an avalanche that covered the road in roughly 40 feet of snow.

“The message we are really trying to get out to the community is to please stay on the valley floor,” Gallegos said. “Do not be touring in the backcountry with a Level 5 avalanche danger.”

Snow piles up in Silverton on Tuesday. Recent storms have caused power outages and road closures in the historic mining town north of Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Both county roads remained closed Thursday. Gallegos hoped they would reopen sometime Friday.

The Highway 550 mountain corridor remained closed Thursday, which is the only route in and out of Silverton.

CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said crews expected to complete avalanche mitigation work Thursday afternoon and the highway should reopen by Friday.

Gallegos said snow-ins are part of living in Silverton and residents typically prepare for poor weather conditions. She said the grocery store may be limited if it snows on a delivery day, but for the most part, residents stock up on necessary items in preparation of big storms.

“Locals actually kind of enjoy it,” she said. “You know, we always say you're snowed out, we're not snowed in.”

But snowy conditions can create problems for those who need medical attention.

Gallegos said if people need emergency assistance, it can be challenging to find help during blizzard conditions.

“About a week ago, we were snowed in and we had a patient that needed to be transported to Mercy and Flight for Life was unable to fly,” she said. “On that particular day, CDOT gave an emergency escort to our ambulance.”

When patients are unable to be transported, a town paramedic will assist until the person can be transported.

San Juan County spokeswoman DeAnne Gallegos said the town has been dealing with power outages related to snowstorms this winter. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Silverton has experienced power outages this winter, which has caused the town to take its snow day prep to another level.

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, San Miguel Power Association reported an outage east of Silverton affecting 47 customers along County Road 2. Crews were able to restore power by 12:30 p.m.

Gallegos said the best way residents can prepare for power outages is to have a backup generator, purchase cellphone charging packs and carry dry goods or have a camp stove.

“These are the community conversations that we're starting to have,” she said. “It’s not only getting our public buildings on a backup generator system, but having each homeowner be responsible for coming up with a plan for backup power in their home.”


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