Molas, Coal Bank passes break snowfall record

Red Mountain Pass reopens after 3-day closure

Road crews conducted blasting for avalanche mitigation and cleared snow Wednesday on Red Mountain Pass, which had been closed from 11 a.m. Monday until shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday because of adverse weather conditions. Enlargephoto

Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation

Road crews conducted blasting for avalanche mitigation and cleared snow Wednesday on Red Mountain Pass, which had been closed from 11 a.m. Monday until shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday because of adverse weather conditions.

Coal Bank and Molas passes, between Durango and Silverton, have received more snow this month than any other January since at least 1993, when the Colorado Avalanche Information Center began keeping records.

Coal Bank Pass has received 151½ inches so far this month, compared with its previous record high of 136 inches, and Molas Pass has received 145 inches this month, compared with its previous record high of 142 inches.

The two passes reopened Tuesday afternoon after being closed on Monday. Coal Bank Pass received 25½ inches during the recent three-day storm, and Molas Pass received 23½ inches, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Red Mountain Pass, which closed Monday for adverse weather conditions, reopened shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The pass received about 18 inches of snow during a three-day storm earlier this week, but conditions were so dangerous and visibility was so poor that avalanche-control crews were unable to perform work until Wednesday, said Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

While the mountain passes north of Durango have reopened, Schwantes warned drivers to stay clear of heavy equipment, which will be clearing snow for the remainder of this week.

“There is still a significant amount of snow on the shoulders and they will be doing widening operations for the next few days to move that snow and get a nice shoulder for a wider road,” she said.

With the exception of intermittent snow flurries Thursday, the remainder of the week is expected to be mostly dry. Temperatures are expected to plunge into the single digits for the next few nights, with a slight warming trend this weekend.

shane@durangoherald.com

An avalanche triggered in 2016 near the Eagle slide on Red Mountain Pass. The pass was closed for three days this week because of adverse weather and avalanche-control work. It reopened shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday. Enlargephoto

Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation

An avalanche triggered in 2016 near the Eagle slide on Red Mountain Pass. The pass was closed for three days this week because of adverse weather and avalanche-control work. It reopened shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday.