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Powder storms take aim at Colorado

January 30, 2016, 7:24 am

Colorado is bracing for a weekend of powder storms across the state, and the good ski conditions likely will keep building into next week, according to forecasters.

CDOT logo“The first part of the upcoming storm will bring heavy snow to all mountains on Saturday and Saturday night, with most areas experiencing the best powder on Sunday morning,” writes meteorologist Joel Gratz of Opensnow.com. “The second part of the storm will bring another round of heavy snow to the southern mountains and areas east of the divide from Sunday through Tuesday. And then part three of the storm will return snow to the northern mountains from later Tuesday through Wednesday. It’s going to be a fun 5-6 days!”

All of that new snow and the potential for multiple powder storms has CDOT on high alert. Here’s a press release from the state agency on all the prep work for the weekend:

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) maintenance crews are preparing for the next blast of winter as powder storms begin moving into the state. The latest forecast is calling for snow to begin falling in western Colorado on Saturday, begin hitting the mountains (12-24 inches), Front Range and Eastern Plains (6-12 inches) on Sunday, and snow blanketing the state Monday.

“Some of our crews are already on snow-shift (alternating 12-hour shifts), with others crews going onto snow-shift as the storm develops and moves into their respective areas,” said CDOT’s Director of Maintenance Operations Kyle Lester.  “There’s also a lot of wind expected with this storm so visibility will be a concern from a safety standpoint.”

The Interstate 70 Mountain Express Lane, which runs from Empire through the Veterans Memorial Tunnels in Idaho Springs, will not open this weekend during any snow events or when plows are active.

“Also, on Monday, drivers should be prepared for snowy roads and slick conditions, especially during their morning and evening commutes,” added Lester.  “We’re reminding drivers to give themselves plenty of extra time to get to their destination and be prepared for reduced visibility.”

Crews will remain on snow-shift until the storm is over and highways return to normal driving conditions.

BY THE NUMBERS (Snow-shift start times are approximate, dependent on how the storm develops, especially on the Front Range and Eastern Plains)


Snow-shift begins Saturday in mountainous areas west of Denver; begins in other areas on Sunday.  Approximately 100 plows in service.


Snow-shift begins late Sunday.  Approximately 175 plows in service per shift.


Snow-shift underway in Park County; begins in other areas from late Saturday into Sunday.  Approximately 160 plows in service per shift.


Snow-shift underway.  Approximately 50 plows in service per shift.


Snow-shift underway.  Approximately 50 plows in service per shift.


Currently on snow-shift.  About 78 plows in service per shift.


Currently on snow-shift.  Thirty-six plows in service per shift.

 AVOID A FINE!  Motorists should be aware the Traction Law and Passenger Vehicle Chain Law could be implemented if conditions require it.  When either law is in effect, highway signage will be activated.

  • Traction Law —Motorists will need snow tires, tires with mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel drive vehicle — all tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.
  • Passenger Vehicle Chain Law —Every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock).

Without proper equipment, you can be fined $130. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, you could be fined more than $650.


ROAD CONDITION/CLOSURE INFORMATION: To find roadway conditions and closures, log onto CDOT’s traveler information site at www.cotrip.org or call 511 from anywhere in the state. Better yet, sign up to receive wireless text alerts and/or e-mails about road conditions on our website, www.codot.gov

Ø Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: https://www.codot.gov/travel/winter-driving for road conditions winter driving tips and other information; or for I-70 West Mountain Corridor travel, go here: http://goi70.com/.

Ø Be sure you have good snow tires. How do you know if you need new snow tires? Insert a quarter into the tire tread upside down, with Washington’s head going in first; if the top of George’s head is covered by the tread, your tires are OK (do this test in multiple points around each tire.) If the top of his head is visible at any point, you need new tires.

Ø Always keep the top half of your gas tank full. It can give you better traction and gives you a bigger margin of error if you get stuck and have to keep the engine running periodically to keep warm.

Ø If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.

Ø Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle’s safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables, an ice scraper and lock deicer.

Ø Remember that 4-wheel drive does not mean 4-wheel stop. A 4-wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better in icy conditions, especially if you have inadequate snow tires.

Ø Know the chain laws. Chain restrictions in Colorado are most often put into effect for commercial vehicles (semi-trailer trucks) and do not usually affect passenger vehicles.

Ø Drive for the conditions. In poor visibility or even whiteout conditions, don’t drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents.

Ø In addition to these winter driving tips, CDOT reminds all motorists to respect winter weather, conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, and leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road (including plow trucks). Of course, always buckle up!

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