In wild weather swing, smoke will give way to snow

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A series of wildfires burning in northeastern Utah has pushed thick smoke into the region today, prompting an air quality health advisory from state health officials.

But hold on: Big changes are on the way.

A strong cold front bearing down on western Colorado is expected to drop temperatures by as much as 50 degrees by Wednesday and bring accumulating snowfall to parts of Ouray County.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued an air quality health advisory for much of the Western Slope until 9 a.m. Tuesday, including Ouray County.

"Gusty winds and dry conditions at the Utah fires will result in high fire activity on Monday and continued periods of moderate to heavy smoke across western Colorado through at least Monday evening," the advisory reads, noting that visibility of less than 5 miles means smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy and those with heart disease or respiratory illnesses, as well as the very young and elderly, should remain indoors.

But things will begin to change on Tuesday, as a cold front will bring rain, thunderstorms, accumulating snow and freezing temperatures to the region, according to the National Weather Service. A winter storm warning has been issued for much of Colorado, including the southern half of Ouray County, for Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday night. Forecasters say 8 to 12 inches of snow are possible for the San Juan Mountains, making travel difficult over higher mountain passes. Heavy early-season snow on top of fully leaved trees could result in tree damage and power outages Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the weather service.

Temperatures in Ouray and Ridgway will drop from the upper 70s to low 80s this afternoon to the low 30s by Tuesday night.