A multiple-day storm brought a second wave snow into Southwest Colorado early Sunday, and a third burst of powder is expected Monday evening before the storm clears the area.
A high-pressure ridge over the Pacific Northwest that was blocking snow from moving into the Four Corners and Colorado broke down and allowed storms into the region, said Erin Walter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Durango reported 4 inches of snow by 7 a.m. Sunday, before heavy late morning and afternoon snowfall hit town.
“We’re in a pretty active weather pattern with a lot of moisture coming in through Tuesday evening,” Walter said.
Snowfall is expected to lighten Sunday evening, but another wave of snow expected to pick up around midnight over Southwest Colorado, Walter said.
The National Weather Service increased its expectation of snow on Sunday for the Four Corners after models showed the storm picking up intensity overnight.
A winter weather advisory is in effect from 8 a.m. Sunday through 8 a.m. Monday for the Four Corners, the Animas River basin and the Upper Dolores River basin with 2 to 5 inches expected along the lower-elevation corridor of U.S. Highway 160 from Cortez to Pagosa Springs.
Anywhere from 4 to 8 inches of snow could fall in the La Sal Mountains of southeast Utah into the San Juan Mountains in Southwest Colorado, with snow favoring the south- and southwest-facing slopes.
The weather service said travelers should expect slippery road conditions along the U.S. Highway 160 corridor on Sunday.
Durango Police Department Sgt. Dave Longette said only a few fender-benders had been reported Sunday morning, but he advised people to drive with caution if they have to travel.
La Plata County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Wes Doughty also reported few problems on roads Sunday morning, but he also advised people to avoid driving if possible.
The National Weather Service was warning of snow squalls forming in the Four Corners through Sunday afternoon. The weather service also expected roads in the Four Corners to be snowpacked and icy Sunday and Monday.
Chains, alternative-traction devices or snow tires were required on vehicles on Wolf Creek, Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes in the San Juan Mountains.
The Colorado Department of Transportation listed conditions on mountain passes as snowpacked and icy in the San Juans.
Lisa Schwantes, regional CDOT spokeswoman, said crews clearing snow on U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango, especially on Red Mountain Pass between Silverton and Ouray, are having difficulty with backcountry skiers parking alongside the highway in cleared out areas.
“People see cleared shoulder and they think that’s for parking. It’s not. It’s to clear out avalanche slide areas so the next slide doesn’t block the highway,” she said.
Backcountry skiers should hike to their trailheads from established parking areas or have someone drop them off and pick them up, she said.
As of 9:20 a.m. Sunday 9½ inches of snow was reported on Coal Bank Pass and 9 inches on Molas Pass. Red Mountain Pass reported 7½ as of Sunday morning.
As of Sunday morning, the weather service had also recorded 7 inches seven miles east of Mancos and 4 inches one mile southwest of Durango.
Jim Andrus, a Cortez weather watcher, reported 1.9 inches of snow fell from 3:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. in Cortez,
From October to January, the first half of the snow season, Cortez typically averages 21.2 inches of snow, but as of Sunday, Cortez had only received 13.2 inches since October, 62% of normal seasonal snowfall.
“We’re doing some catching up. It’s suppose to snow again Monday,” Andrus said.
As of 5 a.m. Sunday, Purgatory Resort reported 10 inches in the past 24 hours and 16 inches in the past 48 hours. Purgatory has a base depth of 44 inches, and nine of 11 lifts are running.
Also as of 5 a.m. Sunday, Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 1 inch in the past 24 hours and 21 inches in the last 48 hours. It has a midway base of 71 inches and seven of 10 lifts in operation.
Telluride Ski Area reported 6 inches in the last 24 hours and 9 inches in the past 48 hours. It has a base depth of 37 inches and 16 of 17 lifts in operation.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service Snotel map shows Southwest Colorado has only 67% of the 30-year average snowpack.
The third big punch from the storm is expected to move in the evening or late Monday and continue into Tuesday, Walter said.
Another 4 to 6 inches of snow could fall Monday evening into Tuesday in the San Juans, and another 1 to 3 inches could fall in lower elevation areas along the U.S. Highway 160 corridor, she said.
The storm is expected to be out of the area Tuesday evening.
Another snowstorm looks to move in over the region on Friday, Walter said.