Good morning, and welcome to another day in a winter wonderland. About 6 inches of snow fell Thursday night and this morning in Durango, snarling traffic across the region and providing the impetus for canceling schools for a second day in a row. Snow is expected to fall, and keep falling, until at least 5 p.m. today.
Here’s what you need to know to stay safe and be prepared during the winter storm:
Snow snarls transitCoal Bank and Molas passes on U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango have been closed until further notice. Significant snow accumulations on the mountain passes have caused snowbanks to slip into the road, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
US 550 NB/SB: Safety closure between MM 49.6 and MM 70.1. Coal Bank & Molas Passes closed due to adverse conditions. No estimated reopen time.— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) February 22, 2019
The southern closure point is located just north of Purgatory Ski Resort near Cascade Creek at mile post 53. Purgatory is accessible from the south. The highway is closed again in Silverton at mile post 70. Red Mountain Pass, which provides access to Silverton from the north, remains open.
Wolf Creek Pass was closed from 6 a.m. to 9:47 a.m. today, said CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes.
Snow routes are in effect for Durango, meaning vehicles parked on designated “important and necessary routes” will be towed.
Air travel largely unaffectedDurango-La Plata County Airport Director Tony Vicari said operations will continue as normal. Passengers can expect delays, but because most of the snow fell north of the airport, cancellations are not anticipated, Vicari said.
Snow totals so farSnow totals vary greatly based on elevation gradients across La Plata County. What’s clear is there is more to come.
Purgatory Resort reported 2 feet of snow accumulation in 24 hours. Derek Snyder, a cooperative weather observer for the National Weather Service in Hesperus, said he received 26½ inches from Tuesday to 7 a.m. today.
“I’ve been here 21 years and this is the worst snow that I’ve seen,” Snyder said. “It’s tough.”
Larry Zauberis, a cooperative weather observer for the National Weather Service 5 miles south of Farmington Hill, said he has seen almost 2 feet since Tuesday. Zauberis used to work as a snowplow operator for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and said he hasn’t seen this much snow since the early to mid-1990s.
“You can imagine, it’s getting be a hassle,” Zauberis said.
But Silverton and San Juan County haven’t seen nearly as much snow, said Freddie Canfield, a cooperative weather observer in Silverton. Since Saturday, Canfield said he has recorded 17.6 inches of snow in Silverton. While the snow is up to the windows in his home, he doesn’t see the snow adversely impacting the community. Children ski to school, he said, and if Canfield wants to get something from his garage, he puts on snow shoes.
Just south of downtown Durango, on Saw Mill Road, Bill Butler recoded almost 35 inches of snow since it began falling Wednesday, “and it’s still snowing pretty good,” he said about 11:45 a.m. Friday. It is the most snow he has seen in the past seven years, he said.
Kevin Heckman, a NWS and a Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network observer in lower Forest Lakes, recorded 0.52 inches of water and 10.9 inches of snow at 7 a.m. Friday. His snow depth at that time was 39 inches.
Efforts to receive official snow totals from Ignacio and Hermosa were not immediately successful Friday.
In the month of February, 48.9 inches of snow has fallen in Durango, said John Kyle, data acquisition program manager for the NWS. Average snowfall in February for Durango is about 15 inches, he said. The record, set in 1911, was 57.6 inches for the month of February.
What’s to comeYou guessed it, more snow.
Durango could expect anywhere from 2 to 3 inches before the storm moves out of the area, and higher elevations could get 3 to 6 inches, said Kris Sanders, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
That’s on top of the 15 to 16 inches Durango has received as of this morning from the three-day storm.
Snowfall is expected to be intermittent this afternoon and will taper off into the evening. The storm should be done by midnight, Sanders said.