It’s Showtime!

12-23-21: Noon update…

At Stevens Field the high yesterday was 42 degrees and the low this morning was 21 degrees. There has been zero precipitation over the past 24 hours. At 11am I am noticing snow already starting to fall on Pagosa Peak. A quick reminder that because our two closest Doppler Radar sites are 200 miles away, snow barely if at all, shows up on apps and radar imagery…it’s really frustrating, but until we can either install our own here in Pagosa Springs or the one in Durango goes online, that is the situation.

As of this post time, there is a Winter Storm Warning in effect for Wolf Creek Pass and elevations above 10000 feet. I’m still hoping that at least a Winter Weather Advisory will be issued for the town of Pagosa Springs before the storm hits but as we have explained before, watches and warnings can only be issued by the NWS.

At 1:58pm Grand Junction NWS issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Pagosa Springs:

URGENT – WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE National Weather Service Grand Junction CO 158 PM MST Thu Dec 23 2021 San Juan River Basin- Including the city of Pagosa Springs 158 PM MST Thu Dec 23 2021 …

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 5 PM THIS AFTERNOON TO 5 AM MST SATURDAY… * WHAT…Wet snow expected. Total snow accumulations 4 to 8 inches of up to 12 inches. Winds gusting as high as 35 mph. * WHERE…San Juan River Basin. * WHEN…From 5 PM this afternoon to 5 AM MST Saturday. * IMPACTS…Travel could be very difficult. Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility, especially on ridge tops and mountain passes. A detailed map of the snowfall can be found at: www.weather.gov/gjt/winter.

Screenshot 2021 12 23 144131
Area that includes our Winter Weather Advisory.

Here is the warning for Wolf Creek Pass:

…WINTER STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM 11 AM THIS MORNING TO 11 AM MST SATURDAY… * WHAT…Heavy snow expected. Total snow accumulations of 12 to 24 inches. Local accumulations of up to 32 inches for the eastern San Juan mountains. Winds gusting as high as 70 mph causing considerable blowing and drifting snow over the higher elevations. * WHERE…Eastern San Juan Mountains Above 10000 Feet, Western Mosquito Range and East Lake County Above 11000 Feet and Eastern Sawatch Mountains Above 11000 Feet Counties. * WHEN…From 11 AM this morning to 11 AM MST Saturday. * IMPACTS…Travel could be very difficult to impossible. Widespread blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. Very strong winds could cause power outages, especially south of highway 50.

There is also an Avalanche Watch:

Avalanche Watch issued December 23 at 8:11AM MST by NWS Denver CO THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE IS TRANSMITTED AT THE REQUEST OF THE COLORADO AVALANCHE INFORMATION CENTER. * WHAT…Avalanche Watch * WHERE… CAIC Forecast Zones: Steamboat and Flat Tops, Front Range, Vail and Summit County, Sawatch, Aspen, Gunnison, Grand Mesa, North San Juan and South San Juan zones * WHEN… Begin on Thursday night December 23 through at least Friday December 24 * IMPACTS… Widespread dangerous conditions are expected across large portions of Colorado on Thursday night and Friday. Dangerous conditions may linger for a few days.

A deep trough has formed off California and our upper-level winds are currently switching to SW, ushering in lots of moisture in the mid-levels of our atmosphere. The big trough will be sending out two mid-level troughs…one on Friday night and one on early Sunday morning. Before the first trough arrives on Friday night, snow levels could climb to 8000 feet Thursday night through Friday. This is where it gets tricky to forecast snow amounts for Pagosa Springs. Within our town, there is basically a 500-1000 foot difference between downtown (elevation 7100) and where many of us live (7500-8000 feet). Normally by late December snow levels are not something we talk about…this is usually a topic for fall and spring, but this system is unusually wet and warm. So, depending on where you live, you could see more of a rain-snow mix through Friday night than snow. After the trough moves through, snow levels will drop below 7000 feet for the foreseeable future.

A few disclaimers and thoughts for any of you who will be traveling to Pagosa Springs this week via plane, vehicle, walking, biking etc. First of all, we are flattered that you read our forecasts and follow our page, but please remember that when it comes to making travel decisions, we can’t help you due to many reasons, including legal ones. Fortunately, we have travel resources on our website found on the WebCams page to keep you up to date on road conditions and closures, current weather as viewed on cams and flight information from the Durango airport. Remember that the Durango airport gets less snow than Pagosa Springs so even if conditions are bad here, they may not be as bad at the airport. We also can’t issue Winter Storm Warnings or Winter Weather Advisories…that is the responsibility of the NWS. Even if we think there will be the potential for a blizzard in 48 hours, we have to wait until the NWS actually issues a watch or warning before we can post such a warning on our site.

nbm conus colorado total snow 10to1 1640260800 1640271600 1640563200 10
Here is the latest NBM snow total model run from this afternoon through Sunday night. We like this model because it uses several models to make its forecast. This forecast is based on the airport’s elevation of 7600 feet so totals for downtown Pagosa Springs (7100 feet) may be lower due to rain-snow mix on Friday during the day.
nbm conus colorado total snow 10to1 1640260800 1640264400 1641211200 10 Full
Here is the same model but run all the way through Jan 3rd. Any model over 5 days is iffy, but this certainly gives us an idea of how long this event will last.
Screenshot 2021 12 23 104530
Here is the latest 3 day snowfall forecast from the NWS (ends on Sunday). Circled are Pagosa Springs, Wolf Creek and Chama, NM.
Screenshot 2021 12 23 101341
A trough will be approaching our area from the west (black lines) and should arrive on Friday night. That will lower our snow levels to under 7000 feet and switch all precipitation to snow for the rest of the weekend and into next week. An atmospheric river of moisture in the mid-levels is moving in from the SW (indicated in red).
Screenshot 2021 12 23 110630
This is the latest graphic from the NWS for “Potential Winter Storm Impacts” through 7pm on Christmas Day. As you can see, most of the town of Pagosa is in the “Minor Impact” zone but you don’t have to go very far out of town in higher elevations to quickly move into the “Moderate and Major Impact” areas. I zoomed into this graphic and if you live in areas north of the airport, you are in the “Moderate Impact” zone.

My forecast…

For those of you who like to “hear” our forecast, we are currently experimenting with a “dial up and text” forecast. Call 877-841-0247 and give it a try! Let us know what you think…

This afternoon: Cloudy with highs around 40. A slight chance for a rain-snow mix during the afternoon. Winds will generally be out of the SW 5-10 mph.

Tonight-Sunday: A mix of snow and rain tonight for Pagosa Springs, but mainly snow for elevations 7500-8000 feet. Lows will only drop to the upper 20’s on tonight. Friday we will see a mix of rain-snow all day for Pagosa Springs with highs in the upper 30’s and lows in the upper 20’s. For those of us living at around 7500-8000 feet, look for mostly snow with highs only reaching the low to mid 30’s. Snow-rain will continue for Pagosa Springs through midnight, then change to all snow as a cold front (trough) moves through and snow levels drop. We could see winds gusting to 30-35mph as the trough moves through. Christmas Day and Sunday will see snow continuing with lows in the 20’s and highs in the mid 30’s.

Snow totals:

This afternoon: 0-1/2 inch for Pagosa Springs, 1/2-1 inch for 7500-8000 feet and 1-2 inches for the mountains.

Tonight (mainly after 9pm)-Christmas morning: 5-10 inches for Pagosa Springs, 10-15 inches for 7500-8000 feet and 15-25 inches for the mountains.

Christmas Day:  2-4 inches for Pagosa Springs and surrounding areas and 4-8 inches for the mountains.

Sunday: 2-4 inches for Pagosa Springs and surrounding areas and 4-8 inches for the mountains.

Monday-Wednesday: Continued snow chances for our area each day, ramping up again towards the middle of next week. By New Year’s we could be looking at a total of 3-4 feet total for Pagosa Springs and double that for the mountains!

-Mark Langford

Check out my Pagosa Peak Cam (myearthcam.com) for watching hikers, bikers and of course, the weather.

Pagosa Springs historical data for November 8th.

Average HighRecord High / YearAverage LowRecord Low / Year
3756/ 19065-28/ 1990

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