The National Weather Service on Tuesday morning issued a hazardous weather outlook for western Colorado and eastern Utah as a low-pressure system is expected to bring rain to low elevations and snow to high elevations this week.
Up to 3 inches of snow is forecast for the San Juan, La Sal and Abajo mountains, beginning after midnight Tuesday. Moderate to heavy snow is expected above 9,000 feet on Wednesday and Thursday. A total snowfall of 4-8 inches is possible. The weather should clear up, however, for the weekend.
Cortez meteorologist Jim Andrus said there’s a 60 percent chance of rain in Cortez on Tuesday night and Wednesday. He said there’s a promising chance to see some much-needed rain. In an average year, Andrus said, Cortez receives 10.63 inches of rain through the end of October. This year, Cortez has recorded 7.6 inches. In the first 10 days of this month, Cortez saw 1.1 inches of rain, which is slightly below average.
“That continues the 20-year-long drought we’ve had here,” Andrus said.
Mike Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, said McPhee Reservoir is holding 17,000 acre-feet in active capacity. At this time last year, the reservoir held 142,000 acre-feet, he said.
“We’ve pulled our reservoirs way down to kind of meet water demand,” Preston said.
The early season precipitation and high-elevation snow is a good sign, he said, and will help restore soil moisture to the cattle range. But the reservoir is low, and another weak winter would mean reduced water use by consumers in the coming year.
“We are needing a good winter,” Preston said.