Winter weather returned to Southwest Colorado on Tuesday morning, bringing about 5 inches of heavy, wet snow to the Cortez area.
Montezuma-Cortez, Dolores and Mancos schools canceled classes on Tuesday. All three districts had announced two-hour delays early Tuesday morning, but began announcing cancellations after 7 a.m.
Durango and Bayfield school districts also canceled classes Tuesday.
Meteorologist Jim Andrus reported that Cortez received 4.9 inches of snow by Tuesday morning. Dolores residents reported about 10 inches, and Mancos Marshal Jason Spruell reported more than 6 inches by 9 a.m., but no vehicle crashes.
Empire Electric began responding to downed power lines around midnight, said dispatcher Jason Bell. By 9 a.m. about a dozen electric lines were down because of fallen tree limbs and heavy snow on the wires. Power outages affected service areas in Cortez, Towaoc, Mancos, Dolores and Lewis-Arriola.
“Crews are chasing them down as the calls come in,” Bell said.
Montezuma County Road and Bridge Director Rob Englehart said he expected most of the snow on the roads to be clear by the afternoon, but he cautioned drivers to watch their speed.
“Once you get rid of the snow, it’s mostly slush down there, no ice or anything,” he said. “But slush can be a big issue if you don’t watch your speed. You can hydroplane, and it can pull you into oncoming traffic or off the road.”
He said the county had mobilized 13 trucks and 12 road graders Tuesday morning to clear the roads, and thanks to warm weather, they were about “50 percent done” by 9 a.m. The heaviest snowfall was between County Road N and Pleasant View, as well as the Dolores area, he said.
The city of Cortez encouraged residents to report limbs that fall on city streets, alleys and sidewalks to call the City Service Center at 970-565-7320 so crews can remove them.
Mesa Verde National Park was closed Tuesday, according to the park’s official Facebook page. More than two feet of snow was drifting in some areas of the park, according to a Facebook post.
The Colorado Department of Transportation reported avalanche work Tuesday on most mountain passes in Southwest Colorado, including Lizard Head Pass on Colorado Highway 145, and Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes on U.S. Highway 550. Drivers were cautioned to expect spot closures throughout the day.
The National Weather Service forecast for Montezuma County calls for more snow before 2 p.m., then a chance of rain mixed with snow. Temperatures are expected to begin climbing by noon, with a high of 35 degrees on Tuesday afternoon. There’s a 20 percent chance of snow tonight, with a low temperature in the lower teens.
Then, expect a meltdown: Temperatures are expected to begin rising on Wednesday, reaching a high in the upper 40s or lower 50s by this weekend.
followed by clearing skies and rising temperatures, with a high in the lower 50s by this weekend.
Up to 18 inches of snow was expected falling in the Southwest Colorado mountains, where a winter storm warning was in effect through Tuesday and included the towns of Telluride, Rico, Silverton and Crested Butte.
On Monday, Julie Malingowski, a meteorologist for the weather service office in Grand Junction, estimated that up to 2 feet of snow could fall in the mountains. “It looks pretty dang good up there,” she said.