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Spring storm soaks Southwest Colorado, blankets mountain passes with snow

Coal Bank and Molas reopen after closure
A road camera on Coal Bank Pass in San Juan County showed snow on both lanes of U.S. Highway 550 on Friday afternoon. The road reopened after a temporary closure over Coal Bank and Molas passes because of adverse weather conditions, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. (Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation)

A wet spring storm brought rain to lower elevations and snow to the high country Friday across much of Southwest Colorado.

Snow was so heavy and unexpected in the higher elevations that it closed two mountain passes on U.S. Highway 550 and prompted a winter weather advisory for parts of the San Juan Mountains.

Both lanes of U.S. Highway 550 reopened Friday afternoon after a temporary closure over Coal Bank and Molas passes, south of Silverton, because of adverse, snowy weather conditions.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for areas of the southwestern and eastern San Juan Mountains above 10,000 feet in elevation. The advisory, which advises drivers to use caution on the roads, is in effect until midnight Friday.

Southwestern areas of the San Juan Mountains could see between 4 and 8 inches of wet snow accumulation with winds gusting as high as 40 mph in higher elevations. Drivers should slow down and expect slippery road conditions, the weather advisory said.

Eastern areas were expected to see up to 10 inches of snow and 45 mph wind gusts in higher elevations. Heavy, wet snow was possible on Wolf Creek Pass during more intense snow bursts. Driving conditions are hazardous and could impact commuting, the advisory said.

“(Saturday) there may be some isolated showers in the mountains in the afternoon. The lower valley should remain dry,” Charnick said.

The rest of the week is forecast to be dry in the Durango area, he said.

Durango’s precipitation is below average for the year, according to Weather Service data, Charnick said. So far in May, precipitation has been about 0.4 inches below the city’s monthly average, 0.6 inches.

“For the year so far, we should have 4.5 inches of precipitation. We’re 2.15 inches below that,” Charnick said. “So yes, it’s much needed rainfall.”


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