A winter storm moving over Cortez since Wednesday evening faltered Thursday, but picked up in the evening.
Overnight into Thursday morning, Cortez saw 2 inches of new snow, but by 5 p.m. had not reached the 2-4 inches expected to fall during the day.
Thursday morning, weather watchers reported that Dolores had 4 inches of new snow, southwest of Dove Creek had 8 inches, and Mesa Verde National Park had 4 inches.
Meanwhile, the Durango region was plastered overnight with 9 inches of fresh snow.
The variation in regional snowfall was due to some snow bands that dumped higher amounts than others, said National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Stackhouse.
“We are expecting another push of moisture from this storm,” she said Thursday.
The forecast shows Cortez could see 2-5 inches by 5 p.m. Friday, and Dove Creek could see another 4-6 inches. Mesa Verde could see upward of 8 inches by 5 p.m. Friday.
School districts throughout Southwest Colorado canceled classes Thursday based on a forecast that called for 6 to 12 inches of snow. Montezuma-Cortez and Dolores schools also canceled classes for Friday. Mancos and Dove Creek schools are on a four-day week and are off on Friday.
Cold temperatures from the north will keep the snow light and fluffy – less dense than a storm last week that was part of an atmospheric river that carried warm, wet air from the Southern Pacific.
The storm will push out of the area Friday afternoon or Friday night, said local meteorologist Jim Andrus. Dry weather is expected Saturday through Thursday.
Overnight snow totals for Wednesday included 6 inches in Durango, 8 inches in Rockwood, 13 inches near Hesperus and a foot of snow in the higher peaks of the San Juan Mountains, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kris Sanders.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center announced on Thursday that threat of snowslides increased to “high,” which is Level 4 based on a scape of 1 to 5.
The most dangerous areas were near the La Plata Mountains, which had more than 20 inches of snow as of 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Areas farther west, from Coal Bank to Wolf Creek Pass, also were considered vulnerable to avalanches, and backcountry travel was not advised.
Digging out of droughtBecause of recent precipitation, much of Southwest Colorado was degraded Thursday on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s drought scale. The Drought Monitor, which measures drought on a scale of D1 to D4, lowered the rating to D2 for Montezuma and La Plata counties, an improvement from last month. In April, before summer’s devastating wildfires in the Dolores and Durango areas, the Four Corners area was in “exceptional drought” at the highest level, D4. San Juan County remains in “extreme drought,” or Level D3.
Local schools closeLate Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, Montezuma-Cortez, Mancos, Dolores, and Dove Creek schools canceled classes for Thursday. Montezuma-Cortez and Dolores schools also canceled classes for Friday.
“Drifting roads and the incoming storm is making travel difficult and problematic for the road crews to keep roads open,” Dove Creek schools posted on Facebook.
Montezuma-Cortez Athletic Director David Robinson also announced changes to the Intermountain League tournament. Both M-CHS teams advanced in the first round Wednesday in Cortez as the boys team defeated Monte Vista, 87-70, and the girls defeated Bayfield, 45-25. The second round of the playoffs is at M-CHS on Saturday.
On Saturday, the M-CHS girls team hosts Pagosa Springs at noon in Cortez, and the M-CHS boys host the Bayfield at 1:30 p.m.On Monday, Cortez will host the girls third-place game at 1 p.m. and the boys third-place game at 2:30 p.m. The girls championship game is scheduled for 4 p.m., and the boys title game at 5:30 p.m.Regional schoolsDurango, Bayfield, Ignacio and Pagosa Springs school districts canceled classes. Mountain Middle School, Animas High School, Fort Lewis College and Pueblo Community College in Mancos and Durango also canceled.
Regional roadsWolf Creek Pass on U.S. Highway 160 east of Pagosa Springs closed at 6 a.m. for winter maintenance operations, including avalanche control work, and reopened about 8 a.m.
Other cancellationsThe Business After Hours event, sponsored by the Cortez Area Chamber of Commerce and scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Wigglin’ Pig on West Main Street, has been canceled and will be rescheduled for a later date.The Cortez Public Library has postponed author Ron Cooper’s presentation of his book “It’s My Trail Too: A Comanche Indian’s Journey on the Cherokee Trail of Tears.”The Montezuma-Cortez art show reception scheduled for Friday evening has been canceled.The Durango Herald contributed to this article.