The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a winter storm warning Tuesday that holds the largest predicted snow totals for a single storm so far this winter in Southwest Colorado.
The winter storm warning is forecast to take effect at 5 p.m. today and will last until 5 a.m. Thursday. During this time, the weather service says up to 24 inches could fall in the high elevation of the San Juan Mountains.
Areas include Silverton, Hesperus, Rico, Ouray, Lake City and Telluride.
Twenty-four inches is the high end of the prediction; the weather service says areas in the mountains could receive 10 to 24 inches of snow.
Wind gusts are also expected to reach as high as 50 mph.
“Travel could become very difficult at times,” the NWS wrote. “Heavy snow rates and blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility at times. Icy to snowpacked roadways would also significantly reduce traction.”
If the snow arrives in Southwest Colorado as expected, an avalanche watch will take effect for the San Juans.
“Expect a heavy snow load on a weak snowpack beginning late Tuesday and continuing through Wednesday,” the NWS said. “The avalanche danger will rise rapidly. Avalanches will be large, easy to trigger and will release naturally.”
During that time, backcountry travel is not advised.
In Montezuma County, there is an 80 percent chance of snow on Tuesday and Tuesday night, with 2 to 5 inches of snow by Wednesday morning. The forecast called for a 70 percent chance of snow on Wednesday and a 50 percent chance of snow on Wednesday night, with 1 to 3 inches of new snow by Thursday morning. Skies are expected to clear on Thursday night.
The weekend was expected to be sunny and clear with highs in the mid-30s and lows in the upper teens.
The Journal contributed to this report.