A major 48-hour snowstorm in Montezuma County tapered off Friday, and a new report showed that although snowpack continues to grow, a whitewater season on the Dolores River this year was unlikely.
The winter storm warning expired at 5 p.m. Friday, and sunny, dry weather was forecast through Thursday.
“It is winding down, but there could be lingering snowfall into the afternoon east and northeast of Cortez,” Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Friday.
As of Friday morning, the approximate 48-hour storm totals were: Cortez, 7 inches; Dolores, 12 inches; Dove Creek, 16 inches; Hesperus, 24 inches; and Durango, 16 inches. The Mancos Snotel at 10,000 feet in the La Plata Mountains had a 48-hour storm total of 18 inches.
Overnight Thursday, the storm also hit Towaoc, dumping 6 inches of fresh snow, compared with about 2 inches in Cortez, Sanders said.
The Weminuche Creek area east of Vallecito Reservoir saw a 48-hour storm total of 50 inches of snow. Meanwhile on Thursday, Flagstaff, Arizona, set a 24-hour snowfall record of 35.6 inches, he said.
The cold air mass and slow-moving storm created ideal snowfall conditions.
“It moved slow, and upslope winds captured a lot of moisture that fell as snow,” Sanders said.
The weather will dry out beginning this week, with high temperatures in the 30s and 40s.
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 were off on Friday.
Digging out of droughtBecause of recent precipitation, much of Southwest Colorado was downgraded Thursday on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s drought scale. The Drought Monitor, which measures drought on a scale of D0 to D4 – “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought” – lowered the rating to D2 “severe drought” for Montezuma and La Plata counties, an improvement from last month. In April, before summer’s wildfires in the Dolores and Durango areas, the Four Corners area was in “exceptional drought,” the highest level, D4. San Juan County remains in “extreme drought,” or Level D3.
The Dolores and San Miguel Basin Snotels had precipitation at 111 percent of average as of Feb. 22, up from 109 percent on Feb. 19.
Spring runoff forecasts into McPhee Reservoir continue to grow and are approaching the historical average, improving the odds that the reservoir will fill. However, it is highly unlikely that there will be a managed whitewater release in 2019, according to the Dolores Water Conservancy District. This is due to the extremely low carryover in McPhee coming out of the 2018 shortage.
Avalanche dangerThe Colorado Avalanche Information Center announced Thursday that threat of snowslides in the southern San Juan Mountains increased to “high,” which is Level 4 based on a scale of 1 to 5. On Saturday, the avalanche center lowered the rating to Level 3, denoting a “considerable” threat.
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.
Regional schoolsDurango, Bayfield, and Pagosa Springs school districts and Fort Lewis College and Pueblo Community College in Mancos and Durango also closed.
Regional roadsWolf Creek Pass on U.S. Highway 160 was closed Friday for winter maintenance at 6 a.m. and was reopened at 9:45 a.m. Coal Bank and Molas Passes on U.S. Highway 550 were closed at 8 a.m. Friday and reopened about 6 p.m.
However, the Colorado Department of Transportation said the passes between Durango and Silverton would close again at 6 a.m. Saturday. It reopened about 10 a.m. The south closure point was just north of Purgatory ski resort, and the north closure point was at Silverton.
Ski areasTelluride Ski Resort on Saturday reported 11 inches of snow since Wednesday and a 70-inch base.Hesperus Ski Area on Saturday reported 26 inches of snow since Wednesday and a 36-inch base.Purgatory Resort on Saturday reported 39 inches of snow since Wednesday and a 91-inch base.Wolf Creek Ski Area on Saturday reported 30 inches of snow since Wednesday and a 136-inch base.