Low-pressure system brings dirt to Durango

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A rare low-pressure system sent wind from the jet stream ripping through the Four Corners Monday afternoon – scattering Rite Aid employees across Town Plaza’s parking lot in pursuit of blown-away discount goods.

Matthew Aleksa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said he expected the strong southwest-to-northeast winds to subside this morning as the cold front moves north, predicting the San Juan Mountains were in for some snow.

While Aleksa said “snow in the mountains is always a good thing,” he said Durango was unlikely to see powder. Meteorologists are predicting Denver will receive 6 to 12 inches of snow during the storm.

Temperatures are expected to drop precipitously tonight, remaining in the low 20s through Wednesday morning, Aleksa said.

Anything in the 20s, he said, was “very cold for this time of year,” and urged Durangoans to take precautions.

Anyone fond of their vegetable gardens, flowers or fruit trees should ready their vegetation for perilous temperatures, he said. “These temperatures could kill plants.”

Likewise, pets should sleep indoors tonight.

Monday’s gusts rained red mud from Arizona and New Mexico dust onto Durango, making the sky an ominous shade of mottled pink and reducing visibility.

Wind speeds were as high as 30 mph at the airport, and anyone in a car should drive at prudent speeds, Aleksa said. Drivers traversing mountain roads, where winds were fiercest, should take particular care, he said.

Loose objects pose threats in windy circumstances, Aleksa said. On Monday, a man on Main Avenue lost his straw hat, which drunkenly careered into oncoming traffic before darting down Eighth Street, toward Toh-Atin Gallery.

Early Monday afternoon, the sky turned so dark that one woman walking out of Starbucks Coffee Co. commanded the clouds: “just rain already.”

Across the state, the storm brought a tornado, high winds and rain with the forecast still calling for snowdrifts of 2 to 3 feet in parts of Colorado’s mountains by tonight.

Gusts of up to 64 mph were reported Monday in Southwest Colorado. The National Weather Service said a tornado was confirmed Monday evening near Bonny Lake in Yuma County in northeast Colorado.

The wind raised the risk of wildfires. In eastern Colorado, Sterling Fire Chief Kurt Vogel said a fire spread across about 2 square miles of grazing land before it was contained Monday. He said winds were about 30 mph earlier in the day, and lightning was spotted around the time the fire started. Evening rains were expected to turn into snow late Monday.

Downtown Durango on Monday seemed like stormy London in the final scene of “Mary Poppins” The scene in which Poppins took leave of the Banks family aboard an umbrella powered by a gale.

Aleksa said the physics of her exit were not realistic, as in real life, strong winds were more likely to invert umbrellas than transport their owners.

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