If Monday marked the “Great Storm” in downtown Durango, Tuesday saw the “Great Melt,” as the sun reduced Main Avenue from a postcard-ready wintry landscape into a dirty liquid dystopia.
Walking on the sidewalk along Buckley Park was treacherous, as the trees rained half-frozen slop down on pedestrians. When a wind caused tree branches to rustle around 2 p.m., a group of teenagers was subject to a particularly heavy bombardment, whereby slush bombs hit heads, shoulders and the surrounding cement, at which point they exploded upwards, spattering untold leggins with nasty streaks of sleet.
Meanwhile, thanks to snowplows, an icy curtain has descended across Main Avenue, where a filthy, formidable berm bisects the city’s major commercial thoroughfare.
The Great Melt was brought on by temperatures that approached 50 degrees in Durango, said John Kyle, acquisition program manager with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
The break in snow and warmer temperatures allowed schools to resume classes Tuesday after being canceled for the second time this year.
The Colorado Department of Transportation did avalanche blasting Tuesday on Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes, and by afternoon, both passes were fully open with no restrictions.
Flights at the Durango-La Plata County Airport returned to normal, for the most part.
While various institutions rebounded from Monday’s storm, downtown Durango remained ground zero for snow-related drama.
Like Berliners crossing the Wall, all day Tuesday, daring Durangoans traversed the berm in the middle of Main Avenue in order to cross the street and pay parking meters.
The city of Durango planned to plow roads Tuesday night, and any cars parked downtown were to be towed after 2 a.m.
Residents said the threat to tow mostly affected late-night socializers.
“They should do a last call for cars at the bars,” said Randy Burge, who traversed the berm – which stood about 2 feet high and 3½ feet wide – in three strides Tuesday afternoon.
Elsewhere in the city, snowplow blades created walls of icy debris that pose a citywide threat to safety.
“With the snow plowing, we have a large number of fire hydrants actually buried in snow,” said Karola Hanks, spokeswoman with Durango Fire Protection District. “We’re not going to be able to get to all of the 1,000 fire hydrants in the city while we’re responding to emergencies.”
She asked able-bodied residents to help by digging out the fire hydrants closest to their home.
A constant stream of water spilled down awnings above Connecting Point and Dancing Willow Herbs.
Shayla Malecki, who was greeting customers outside Del Sol on Tuesday afternoon, said though obviously wretched, the snowmelt showering from businesses’ awnings onto passers-by also offered comedy.
“People walk by on the sidewalk, and it falls on them, and I can’t help but laugh,” she said.
Malecki said she herself had a close call at Fort Lewis College: “I almost fell on campus.”
But on the whole, Malecki felt prepared for the onslaught of slush, thanks to her strategy of always looking where she walks, a good pair of black winter boots, and the eternal, if maddening, triumph of her mother’s wisdom.
“My mom got me the boots. At first, I didn’t want them. But it’s true. Mother always knows best.”
Shoe-wise, locals exhibited preparedness. When a reporter asked a chic-looking woman dressed in all-black on Main Avenue how her black, suede, 3-inch heel booties were faring in the puddles of wet muck, she bent one leg upwards, exposing the shoes’ water-proof soles.
“They’re waffled,” she said.
Burge said he relished the snow.
“I’m one of those freaks who loves to shovel. It’s a good workout, if you’re healthy,” he said.
Burge’s fondness for shovelling may not be healthy. In one study, researchers at the U.S. Nationwide Children’s Hospital recorded 1,764 deaths from cardiac-related injuries – mostly heart attacks – caused by shoveling snow.
“Hopefully, you won’t read my obituary that I died shoveling snow.”