Silverton cut off for more than a day as U.S. 550 closes
A severe winter storm last week forced the closure of U.S. 550 at both Red Mountain Pass north of town and Molas and Coal Bank passes to the south, cutting Silverton off from the outside world for some 29 hours on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 30 and 31.
It was the second of two severe winter storms that slammed into the San Juan Mountains in late December.
According to the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, snowpack in the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins was only 57 percent of average on Dec. 16 and it appeared the region would be facing a dry winter.
Then the Pacific storm track shifted and brought a series of moisture-laden storms across California and the southern tier of states.
In its report issued Wednesday, NSCS says snowpack is now at 140 percent of average in the San Juans.
In one snow-measuring site on Coal Bank Pass, these storms delivered an additional 16.7 inches of liquid water equivalent. The snow depth there was increased by 78 inches during the storms.
Silverton weather watcher Freddie Canfield reported about 15 inches of new snow in town from the storm that hit last week.
And he reported temperatures dipped to -27 on the mornings of Dec. 31 and Jan 1.
In his weather blog, wxnotes.org, Chris Landry, director of the Silverton-based Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, reports that on Saturday morning, Jan. 1, under clear skies, a snow surface temperature of 35 below zero was record at the Swamp Angel Study Plot, at an elevation of about 11,050 feet, on Red Mountain Pass below Senator Beck Basin.
Landry reported that the peak wind gust recorded during the storm hit 73 miles per hour at the Putney Study Plot, at an elevation of 12,325 feet.