Get ready for a mysterious sight to fall from the sky: rain and snow.
After weeks of unseasonably dry and sunny weather, things are about to look different.
“It’s going to be a pretty drastic change,” said Dan Cuevas, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
The last time precipitation hit Southwest Colorado was in early September after a multiday storm blanketed the San Juan Mountains with a dusting of snow and brought rain to Durango.
Since then, it’s been bone dry, underscoring a prolonged drought in the region.
A weather station at Durango-La Plata County Airport shows just 5 inches or so or precipitation since Jan. 1, down nearly 8 inches from normal, and the Animas River is continually setting record low flows for this time of year.
La Plata County is considered to be in an “exceptional drought,” the highest drought category the U.S. Drought Monitor has.
But come Sunday, the elusive moisture, a mix of rain and snow, will fall in both the high country of the San Juan Mountains and even down in Durango.
Saturday will continue to be warm and dry, but a storm system will move into the region Sunday afternoon and linger until Tuesday.
During this time, the high country around Silverton could receive 6 to 12 inches of snow, with locally higher amounts possible, Cuevas said. Travel impacts are expected on high mountain passes.
“It’s a good system,” he said.
In Durango, snow will likely turn into rain during the day as temperatures rise, but accumulation should occur overnight, Cuevas said. By Tuesday, Durango could see up to 4 inches of accumulation.
The incoming storm is the first major snow of the year, and it couldn’t come at a better time as Colorado struggles to contain multiple dangerous wildfires across the state now spreading at an alarming rate.
In just a short time, the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires have become the first and second largest wildfires in Colorado’s recorded history, respectively, causing evacuations and structure loss in the northern part of the state.
In the San Juan Mountains, firefighters hope the incoming storm will help put the final nail in the coffin on the Ice Fire, burning an estimated 600 acres west of Silverton near the popular Ice Lakes trail.
The Ice Fire, so far, hasn’t exploded like other wildfires in the state, likely because of higher humidity and colder temperatures that slow the fire’s spread during the day, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Andy Lyons.
“It’s not out, it’s not over, but the closer we get to the moisture this weekend, the better we’re feeling,” Lyon said.
The storm system should move out of the region by Wednesday, with sunny and dry conditions returning by mid-week.