Epic snowstorm shuts down schools, businesses, roads, and may have brought an end to a drought
The strongest snowstorm in several winters took aim at San Juan County in the past week, resulting in closed schools and businesses, closed highways, copious amounts of snow, and what may be the end of a drought.
Snow began falling on Wednesday evening, didn’t stop until Friday afternoon, and steadily accumulated.
By the end of the storm the snow piled up more than 7.5 feet at the Sno-tel reporting station at Camp Jackson in the Abajo Mountains. The snow contains nearly 18 inches of water at Camp Jackson.
The last time the snowpack held that much water was nine years ago, in 2010.
In the 34 years since the Sno-tel station became operational, there have been only five other years with more snow at this point in the winter.
Schools were closed on Thursday and Friday, in addition to most public buildings.
However, business was hopping at local supply stores as residents struggled to keep up with the falling snow.
By noon on Thursday, the Monticello Merc had sold their last shovel and snow blower. However, they did have a few bags of ice melt that were available for purchase.
Neighbors and friends banded together to help one another during the storm, in addition to helping the stranded travelers who were caught in the deluge.
The highways were not as bad as many expected, largely the result of an heroic effort by road crews and a significant amount of advance notice of the approaching storm.
There were slide-offs and temporarily stranded vehicles, but few serious accidents.
In Monticello, the three-day storm brought 28 inches of snow, on top of the 12 inches that fell on Monday, February 18.
Monticello weather watcher Scott Boyle completed a snow profile on February 22 and found 45 inches of snow on the ground in Monticello.
The 12-inch snowfall on February 18 had condensed to four inches because of the new accumulation on top.
Through February 24, Monticello had received 59 inches of snow and 3.56 inches of precipitation for the month.
The story was similar across San Juan County as communities and isolated residents fought the storm.
The San Juan School District anticipated the arrival of the storm and planned for a late start on Thursday, February 21. However, the storm overwhelmed road and transportation crews and resulted in cancelling school entirely on Thursday.
After it snowed heavily throughout the day on Thursday, few were surprised when school was also cancelled on Friday.
The students in the school district enjoyed two days in a row of no school.
The make-up day has not been finalized. The original school schedule planned for a possible snow make-up day on Monday, April 22.
San Juan School Superintendent Ron Nielson reports that schools operated on Monday, February 25, with no reports of problems or delays.
Nielson, however, warned that the mud season in 2019 may be epic. “Everything was great today, but we are going to have a lot of mud,” said Nielson.