A snowstorm was welcomed to the drought-stricken Four Corners today, and more snow is on the way.
Moderate snowfall hit the area Monday night and Tuesday morning from Cortez to Monticello, and Durango to Pagosa Springs, said Kris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Snowfall favored lower elevations.
A winter storm warning is in effect for the Southwest San Juan Mountains until 5 p.m. Tuesday. Additional snow accumulations of 2-3 inches are expected with pockets getting higher amounts.
Travel is expected to be difficult at times with icy to snowpacked roads.
Cortez was reporting 2-5 inches of fresh snow Tuesday morning, Dolores had 4-6 inches, and Durango had 9 inches.
The storm favored lower elevations, but snow is also falling in the mountains, Sanders said. Tuesday morning, Purgatory had reported 2 inches of fresh snow, and Telluride was reporting just 1 inch.
“We will probably see a gradual downtrend of intensity throughout the day, with a few higher elevations continuing to see snowfall,” Sanders said. “The sun is starting to poke through and temperatures are rising.”
Also on Tuesday, the NWS has issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for the next week in the Four Corners, Upper Dolores River and Animas River Basins.
While the current storm is heading out, a series of storms are forecast to move in from the west and impact the region from late week into the weekend, according to the Hazardous Weather Outlook.
“Significant precipitation amounts are becoming more probably with the weekend storm system,” according to the weather service.
The recent storm track was unpredictable and also unusual in that it left more snow in the foothills than on the highest peaks in the San Juan Mountains.
CDOT recommended travelers stay off the roads Tuesday, especially early when the snow is expected to be heaviest.
“Give us a chance to get out and tackle the snow. Cleared highways make for safer travel,” said Phillip Bergt with the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Durango Maintenance Patrol.
The main body of the storm that moved off to Baja California should be back Thursday, but it won’t have much power in it until Friday, when it will be joined by moisture coming in from the Pacific Northwest, meteorologist Norv Larson said.
The combination of the two storms should provide a chance of snow over Southwest Colorado from Thursday through Sunday, Larson said.
It was too early for the Weather Service to offer estimates on snowfall between Thursday and Sunday, Larson said.
“So Thursday, that low that drifted over Baja comes back as an open wave, and that’s where a chance of snow comes in Thursday, but that doesn’t look all that promising until the next system from the Pacific Northwest begins to move in Friday night to Saturday,” Larson said.
Don’t look for solid snow from Thursday to Sunday, but expect more off-and-on periods of snowfall, he said.
La Niña patterns this winter have brought below-normal snowfall to Southwest Colorado.
As of Thursday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Snotel reported that Southwest Colorado’s snowpack in the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel river basins was at 69% of the 30-year average.
The snowpack in the Upper Rio Grande basin in south-central Colorado was in better shape, at 96% of the 30-year average.
The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center estimates La Niña conditions have a 95% chance of extending through March.