Jeff Colton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, suggested this week’s winter storm is a harbinger of things to come.
“It looks like you’re heading toward an above-average season as far as snowfall is concerned,” Colton said Tuesday.
The culprit, he said, is this year’s La Nina weather pattern.
“We anticipate it’s going to maintain its strength throughout most of the season,” Colton said.
Craig and Moffat County agencies got their first taste of a La Niña winter this year beginning with rain Monday morning, then snow into Tuesday.
The weather was responsible for difficult driving conditions and stuck motorists, representatives from road and bridge departments and law enforcement agencies said.
Bill Mack, Moffat County road and bridge director, said his staff got an early start Tuesday morning.
“Our plows went out at 3 (a.m.), but we’re running behind because of the wet, heavy snow,” Mack said.
Mack said he had 45 workers plowing 1,000 miles of roadways Tuesday in Moffat County.
“So far, we’re doing pretty good,” he said.
Although the National Weather Service reported eight to 10 inches of snow Tuesday morning in Craig, Mack said totals were higher outside city limits.
“We’ve got accumulations of 12 to 14 inches over most of the county,” he said.
“And, we have more in the Hiawatha area. There’s probably a couple of feet out there.”
Randy Call, City of Craig road and bridge director, said his department was working at maximum capacity to deal with the snowfall.
“We have 12 pieces of equipment plowing snow, and one guy per piece of equipment,” Call said. “That’s all the guys I got.
“I don’t have any extra equipment, so there’s no point in putting on extra staff.”
Call said his employees were pulling long shifts, and they’re prepared to continue.
“We’ll just keep going every day for 14 to 16 hours,” he said. “It’s a mess out there, but we’ll get (the roads) cleaned up in time to go home at 10 tonight, and we’ll be back in at 4 in the morning.”
Call said he was hopeful for the holiday.
“Let’s hope it quits by Thursday or Friday, and we can get it all cleaned up and have a nice Christmas,” he said.
But, Colton is predicting more snow — and perhaps rain — until Friday.
Today could begin with snow changing to rain late in the morning. Craig could see snow accumulations of four to five inches today before the rain begins, Colton said.
However, the forecast looks settled for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Colton said.
“Right now, it looks dry for both of those days,” he said. “You will have snow on the ground, obviously, but it looks like dry weather is on the way.”
In the meantime, law enforcement agencies are warning drivers to be cautious, or stay home if possible.
Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said there were no accidents Tuesday morning. However, the department dealt with several stuck motorists.
“I’ve pulled out three (people),” Jantz said. “The tow trucks have been out on at least three semis out west of Maybell (on Tuesday morning). My other guys have been working on other stuff all over.”
Jantz said he didn’t have an exact number of stuck motorists.
“I’d hazard to guess a couple dozen,” he said.
Sgt. John Forgay of the Craig Police Department agreed that the number of stuck motorists was greater than accidents Tuesday.
“We’ve been very lucky,” he said. “Other than people driving into snow-berms, people are using their heads.”