Saturday may be the first day of spring, but the week ahead may feel more like winter in Southwest Colorado.
A series of small storms, each expected to bring rain to lower elevations and snow to the high country of the San Juan Mountains, are forecast to begin Saturday night and extend through the week, with average temperatures dropping more than 10 degrees.
“We have a series of storms that will be moving through the area through next week. We have a pretty active and unsettled weather pattern settling in pretty much (Saturday) night and carrying into next weekend,” said Erin Walter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Each wave from the storm pattern is likely to bring rain to the lower elevations along the U.S. Highway 160 corridor from Cortez to Pagosa Springs and 2 to 4 inches of snow to the high country, with the heaviest accumulations occurring above tree line, Walter said.
Silverton and Telluride can expect between 1 to 2 inches from each of the storms that moves through next week.
As of Friday, the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Snotel map showed the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel river basins of Southwest Colorado at 83% of the 30-year average snowfall for Southwest Colorado.
Cortez, Durango and Pagosa Springs could see a trace of snow if storms hit during the coldest parts of the night, but most lower-elevation population centers should expect scattered and individualized rain bands.
Beginning Sunday, high temperatures in Durango are expected to reach only the high 40s or the low 50s, with lows in the mid-20s to low 30s.
“Saturday will be the last seasonably warm day, and then temperatures will cut back 15 or so degrees,” Walter said.
Storms are expected to move in Saturday night and extend through the day Monday. Another storm is expected Tuesday evening, extending through Wednesday. Thursday may be the clearest day of the week with another storm likely to hit March 26, and extend through March 27.
“All the storms look to be pretty similar, rain in lower elevations and 2 to 4 inches of snow, with heavy accumulations mostly above timberline,” Walter said.
Walter said a high-pressure system over the Pacific Northwest and another high-pressure system stuck over the Atlantic Coast have locked in a trough over the West – and that’s bringing the favorable storm pattern over the Four Corners.