The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the San Juan Mountains starting 5 p.m. Sunday.
An alert sent out on Saturday afternoon predicted heavy snow and high winds for the mountains that could last through 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. The alert predicted between 12 and 18 inches of total snow accumulation, with up to 24 inches possible in some areas. Drivers were advised to use caution while traveling through the mountains.
In Montezuma County, the weather service is forecasting a 40 percent chance of rain and snow early Monday morning, and a 70 percent chance of precipitation later in the day, with a possible 1 to 3 inches of snow.
Grand Junction meteorologist Chris Cuoco said higher areas of Montezuma County, such as Mancos and Dolores, may see some snow accumulation after Sunday night’s storm. But he said lower elevations will probably only get “a dusting of snow.” Monday’s high temperature is 41 degrees, so any snow that falls during the day is unlikely to stick. More snow is predicted for Tuesday morning before 11 a.m.
Montezuma and La Plata counties will get plenty of wind, though, according to the forecast. Gusts as high as 35 mph are predicted for Sunday afternoon, and 20 to 25 mph on Monday. In the mountains, the weather service alert said gusts could be as high as 50 mph.
With the approaching storm, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche watch.
“With the higher end of forecast snowfall, the avalanche danger in portions of the central and southern mountains will rise to high (Level 4) on Monday. Watch for rapidly changing conditions during the day on Monday as the storm arrives.”
The avalanche danger Sunday was listed as moderate (Level 2).
Cuoco said the storm is good news for an area that has been experiencing an unusually warm, dry winter. The snowpack in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River Basins was at just 49 percent of normal and 31 percent of last year on Saturday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. That means bodies of water like Lake Powell and the McPhee Reservoir will get less spring runoff this year, potentially leaving less irrigation water for farmers. Sunday’s storm may bring the snow pack a little closer to normal.
“Every little bit is helping,” Cuoco said. “But it’ll take a few storms like this to get us where we need to be.”
Temperatures will stay relatively warm over the weekend, with a high in the low 50s on Sunday and the lows 40s degrees on Monday. Tuesday will bring more wintry conditions, with a high daytime temperature in the mid-20s an overnight low of 7 degrees.
Reporter Jonathan Romeo of The Durango Herald contributed to this article.