A storm expected to hit Southwest Colorado on Wednesday could bring between 4 to 8 inches of snow in the San Juan Mountains with up to half an inch of accumulation in Durango and Pagosa Springs.
Matthew Aleska, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said, “There is warm air ahead of the storm, and in Durango and at lower elevations, you could see rain Wednesday changing over to snow maybe six in the evening, maybe even a little later.”
In addition, thunderstorms could accompany the storm, especially in the high country.
A rain-snow mix at lower elevations also might be present if the storm arrives in the coldest part of the pre-dawn morning Wednesday with snow turning to rain as the sun rises, he said.
A winter weather advisory is in effect from 6 a.m. Wednesday to 9 a.m. Thursday for the northwest and southwest San Juan Mountains, including the towns of Telluride, Ouray, Silverton, Rico, Hesperus and Lake City.
The storm is more likely to disrupt the Wednesday evening commute rather than Wednesday morning’s travel, Aleska said.
The winter weather advisory calls for periods of heavy snow with up to 8 inches in the San Juan Mountains and lesser amounts expected to accumulate below 8,000 feet. Winds up to 45 mph could accompany mountain snowfall.
“In Durango, you’re looking at a few tenths of an inch, maybe half an inch, and about the same for Pagosa Springs,” Aleska said.
He expected only a few tenths of an inch accumulation in Cortez.
At lower elevations, Aleska expected rain or a rain-snow mix to be off and on through the day Wednesday with the storm leaving the region midmorning Thursday.
Another snowstorm is expected to hit the north and central mountains of Colorado on Friday, but it is likely to miss Southwest Colorado and the San Juans, Aleska said.
The next best chance for snow for Southwest Colorado looks like it might not come until midweek next week, Feb. 10 or Feb. 11, he said.
On Tuesday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center lists a “considerable” chance for avalanches in the northern and southern San Juan Mountains.
As of the latest update Friday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snotel map shows Southwest Colorado at 79% of the 30-year average snowpack. However, the next river basin to the east, the Upper Rio Grande basin, was at 107% of the 30-year average snowpack.
On Tuesday, Purgatory Resort reported a base depth of 46 inches and 100% of terrain open.
Telluride Ski Area reported a base depth of 40 inches and all 17 of its lifts running. Wolf Creek Ski Area reported a midway depth of 96 inches and 100% of terrain open.