Southwest Colorado is buried in deep snow, and more is coming. But exactly how much may be up to debate.
Anywhere between 4 and 20 inches of snow is predicted to fall during the next few days in Durango – and such a broad range isn’t the fault of unpredictable weather but rather disagreeing weather reports.
The National Weather Service, a federal agency tasked with compiling data, making forecasts and issuing warnings, predicts 4 to 12 inches through Thursday in Durango.
But Jeff Givens, a local Realtor and a self-taught weather observer with a Facebook following of 8,100 people, predicts 12 to 20 inches during that same time period in Durango.
Givens uses “3 decades of informal meteorology studies together with my local knowledge of the terrain to bring you a concise individual weather outlook for your location in SW Colorado,” according to his Facebook page.
So who is right? Who will prove to be the more accurate prognosticator?
Time will tell.
In the meantime, here’s an explanation of why Givens and the National Weather Service may be offering different forecasts:
Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the federal agency uses multiple models, both conservative and liberal, to predict a range of snow that may fall. Some predict only a few inches of snow while others show up to 2 feet dropping in the same location, Stackhouse said.
What the National Weather Service publishes in its winter storm warnings is an average of what will fall across Southwest Colorado and southeastern Utah, Stackhouse said. That means the winter storm warning forecast for Durango is an average of what will fall in all the low country across the region.
“It’s a hard business,” Stackhouse said. “There’s a lot to look at, so we do the best we can.”
Givens did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment about his 12- to 20-inch forecast. But in his Facebook post, he seems to suggest his forecast is hyper-focused on Durango, while the National Weather Service is making a sweeping forecast for a larger geographical area.
“I don’t usually try to take too big of a public stand with the NWS, but I really hope they fix the wording on the lower elevation warnings,” Givens wrote in a blog post Wednesday morning. “Once again as you will read, they have issued a blanket Winter Storm Warning, and the amounts they have listed are too low for Durango and Bayfield and Pagosa.”
For more precise reports, weather.gov can offer more detailed information about what is predicted in the Durango area. As of noon Wednesday, the National Weather Service predicted 3 to 7 inches of snow Wednesday night, 4 to 8 inches of snow Thursday and 3 to 5 inches of snow Thursday night. In total, that’s a prediction of 10 to 20 inches of snow in the next 48 hours. Not far off from Givens’ prediction.
It’s often difficult to predict weather in Southwest Colorado, where there is diverse elevation gradient and a bit of a forecasting blind spot with Doppler radar. That’s set to change, however, after the Colorado Department of Local Affairs awarded $1.7 million in funding for a permanent radar system.