Log In

Reset Password
News Education Local News Nation & World New Mexico

Update: Snow closes Mesa Verde National Park for second day in a row

Mesa Verde National Park has received more than a foot of fresh snow in the past several days. The winter blast caused the park to close three times to provide time for snowplows to clear park roads. (Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park)
Slide-offs occur throughout Montezuma County, sheriff says; Ute Mountain Ute government offices closed from weather

A holiday snowstorm closed Mesa Verde National Park Monday and Tuesday, caused power outages in Montezuma County, and led to slide-offs on roadways.

“Mesa Verde will remain closed today so that plow drivers can continue to clear the road. If you're planning to travel to the park tomorrow, please check (Facebook) in the morning for updated conditions,” states a park Facebook post Tuesday.

The Visitor and Research Center is also closed.

Also on Tuesday the Ute Mountain Ute tribal government offices closed because of severe weather.

Mesa Verde shut down on Dec. 28 to allow snowplows to clear the main roadway. On Dec. 30, opening was delayed until 10 a.m. to allow plows to catch up.

The park’s phone lines also were down for several days last week, and it was likely storm related.

In the past several days, more than a foot of snow has fallen at Mesa Verde, and more is coming, park officials said. Park roads are snowpacked and icy. Snow tires or traction devices are required.

“While snow can limit what's accessible in the park, it does make for some beautiful scenery. Be prepared for snowy and icy roads,” the park stated.

When it does reopen, the park is primed for nice cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in designated areas.

The Morefield Campground road, loops, and amphitheater parking lot were roller packed on Friday, averaging 5 inches of packed snow.

Several inches of heavy, wet snow have since fallen at Morefield. The Meadow Bliss Trail and the group camping loop are not groomed. The park allows skis and snowshoes only on groomed trails – no boots.

If the Mesa Top Loop Road pullouts are clear, visitors are welcome to park at those pullouts and cross-country ski or snowshoe the Cliff Palace Loop Road.

The Wetherill Mesa Road up to mile 6, and the Park Point Road are also open for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

No dogs are allowed in these areas.

County sees many crashes
Colorado Highway 145 north of Rico is snowpacked and icy. (Colorado Department of Transportation)

Law enforcement and rescue crews were busy over the weekend, said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin.

“There were a lot of slide-offs,” he said.

On Sunday, a car slid off County Road 30 south of Dolores in Lost Canyon, crashed down a steep embankment and into a tree, Nowlin said.

The occupants were rescued by the Dolores Volunteer Fire Department and were OK. A tree branch stopped the vehicle from falling farther down the hillside.

In another late-night incident Dec. 28, a woman driving west on Hillside Drive in Dolores lost control and crashed into a Dolores Schools maintenance yard gate.

The woman left the scene, and her vehicle was found parked Colorado Highway 145, Nowlin said. Auto parts left at the crash scene matched what was missing on the vehicle, which was impounded.

The woman was found the next day at her residence and admitted to the crash in Dolores, Nowlin said. She was given a ticket for careless driving.

“We have another round of storms coming. Please wear your seat belts, drive correctly and slow down,” Nowlin said.

Empire Electric Association reported continued outages Monday as a result of heavy snow on power lines. There were 142 customers without power, mostly located along Colorado Highway 184. Six people were also without power up the West Fork Valley, northeast of Dolores.

On Friday morning, a car that crashed into a power pole caused an outage south of Cortez, and crews restored power that morning, according to an Empire Electric notice.

Wednesday’s heavy snow triggered 1,700 customers to lose power. The cause was damaged lines from snow and broken tree limbs falling onto lines. Crews restored power throughout the day.

The intense snowfall made power restoration a challenge, said Andy Carter, member engagement manager for Empire.

When heavy wet snow that has accumulated on power lines or on nearby trees, the result can be power lines coming in contact with each other or nearby objects.

“When this happens, protective devices meant to keep everyone safe function and your power goes out,” stated an empire Facebook post. “Our crews continue to respond to the many small outages that we have experienced and if the snow keeps falling we will likely continue to have outages.”

EEA has all available crews out working outages. Crews might be on or near roadways.

If you lose power and notice your neighbors have their power on, please check your circuit breakers or fuses to make sure it is not an issue on your side of the meter. If it isn't, call (970) 565-4444.

Empire Electric keeps an updated outage map on its website https://ebill.eea.coop/maps/OutageWebMap/.

Updates are also reported on the Facebook page.

To receive text notifications about outages, make sure you have SmartHub downloaded on your phone and select your notification preferences. https://eea.smarthub.coop/Login.html.

Report outages to 970-565-4444 or (800) 709-3726. Learn more about outages on the Empire Electric website.

Avalanche warning

An avalanche warning was in effect across the San Juan Mountains, from the New Mexico border through Wolf Creek Pass, Weminuche Wilderness, Silverton, Telluride, Rico, and the La Plata Mountains, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Avalanche danger in the San Juan Mountains is rated high – Level 4 out 5 on the danger scale.

Dangerous avalanche conditions will develop Sunday night through Tuesday night. Avalanches large enough to bury you will release naturally, and may run long distances. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.

Spruce Tree House at Mesa Verde National Park. (Courtesy Mesa Verde National Park)