Telluride Regional Medical Center staff, including Kathryn Beck BSN, RN, arrived to work early Monday morning to shovel a path for patients to the Outdoor Respiratory Clinic. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Plantz/Telluride Regional Medical Center)

As if Ullr knew Monday marked exactly one month until Telski’s expected Opening Day date of Nov. 26, the area was covered in a fresh coat of snow, which was the first significant snowfall since a one-off system dumped several inches over town in early September.

The recent precipitation won’t last, though, as temperatures are expected to rise through the weekend without any rain or snow in the forecast, according to Erin Walter, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office.

“Based on a couple of maps, there was a report of 8 inches, just outside of Telluride to the northwest. It looks like values really tapered off drastically further south of Telluride,” she explained.

While the recent weather system reached the Telluride area Sunday into Monday, Montrose and Ouray counties were hit a day earlier, Saturday into Sunday.

“Ridgway and Montrose did really well in this system. There were reports of anywhere from 7 to 9.5 inches in Ridgway. They ended up doing fairly well with this system as it crossed. Most of it fell Saturday into Sunday,” Walter said. “It looks like, especially watching the CDOT cams Monday, that Red Mountain Pass was kind of the transition zone, where areas north had snow-packed roads and accumulation and areas south really tapered off and probably had accumulating snow on the side of the road, but it wasn’t sticking to the warmer road conditions.”

The wintery weather made driving conditions precarious throughout the region.

Multiple vehicles slid off the road on Norwood Hill between Highway 145 mile-markers 96 and 98, shutting down that stretch for an hour-plus Monday morning, as San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office deputies, CDOT officials, state police and tow companies responded.

“Roads in much of the county are slick and icy with very low temperatures in region. CDOT crews are out sanding. If you must drive, do so with extreme caution and have extra food, water, warm clothes and a flashlight in your vehicle,” according to a Sheriff’s Office social media post. 

The City of Ouray Police Department put out a similar PSA Monday morning.

The weather required Telluride Regional Medical Center nurses and doctors to show up early Monday and shovel out the Outdoor Respiratory Clinic, which has been used during the COVID-19 pandemic to meet patients with respiratory symptoms in order to maintain the medical center facility for non-respiratory primary and emergency care services.

Med center officials knew weather would become a factor at some point, and Monday displayed why.

The med center is already in the process of transitioning the clinic into the Telluride Depot Building that was recently purchased by the Telluride Science Research Center. The Interim Depot Clinic, which is what it’s being called, is currently being retrofitted for temporary outpatient care, but officials anticipate they’ll be able to relocate to the indoor space by Thanksgiving, according to a med center news release.

The initial cost of the temporary respiratory clinic is approximately $400,000, and while the med center expects grants will subsidize some of the cost, there will be a “substantial amount” of money left to raise and ongoing monthly expenses to account for.

“This is a community challenge and the support we continue to receive from our community is profound,” said Kate Wadley, executive director of the Telluride Medical Center Foundation, according to the release.

To date, that outpouring has included donations of equipment, protective gear, lunch and snacks for staff, an anonymous donation of just over $100,000, a $50,000 pledge from the Telluride Women Give philanthropic group, $10,000 from Two Skirts and thousands of other donations at all levels from the community.

“Every dollar will be spent to ensure the safety and health of the community and our incredibly hardworking team on the frontline of this global pandemic,” Wadley said.

A new facility is still in the med center’s long-term plans, however.

“It’s not ideal but the fact remains that our current facility is ill-equipped to meet the needs of this pandemic,” med center CEO Karen Winkelmann said. “And while there’s fair cause for optimism for the potential site of a new facility at Society Turn sometime in the next five years, today and for the foreseeable future, we’re in the position to ask for an unprecedented amount of support.”

In other weather news, the week’s snowfall didn’t do much to dampen the ongoing drought, Walter said.

Any precipitation helps, but we are still in an exceptional drought,” she added. “Unfortunately, it was just one strong punch. We have cool air lingering behind it, but we don’t have much in terms of precipitation in the extended forecast. Not anything until earlier November. This is pretty far out, but looking into mid-next week a system can potential bring precipitation to the southern San Juans, but our confidence in that is fairly low because the consistency between model runs is pretty diverse.”