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A massive and powerful snowstorm slammed into Colorado Wednesday morning, bringing high winds, more snow and yet another round of road closures along Interstate 70 on Vail Pass and elsewhere around the state. But the ski conditions continue to be amazing in the Vail Valley.
The Colorado Department of Transportation issued a travel advisory (see press release below) – predicting road closures and more avalanche mitigation — and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche warning for the Vail, Summit County area through Thursday, with the avalanche danger rated as considerable.
Following a massive snow cycle over the last week that saw five feet or so of new snow for Vail and Beaver Creek, snow is expected to continue through Wednesday night before about a week-long break in the action.
“Snow totals from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning will be 5-20 inches, there will be times of strong winds, and the snow quality should get lighter and fluffier through the day,” Opensnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote Wednesday morning.
“Enjoy the powder on Wednesday, and Thursday morning could be deep in spots where lifts do not open on Wednesday or where additional snow falls Wednesday night. Following the storm, we’ll see about a one week break in the snow, then expect light snow late next week and perhaps a stormy final 7 days of March.”
And here’s that CDOT press release:
Statewide storm event expected to throttle the Front Range
Motorists should expect road closures and avalanche mitigation
COLORADO ― The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is gearing up for a potent storm cycle expected to impact much of the I-25 corridor and eastern plains beginning mid-morning tomorrow. CDOT warns motorists that they may encounter delays and road closures due to anticipated 60-70 mph winds and white out conditions. Over the next few days, CDOT’s winter operations division and partnering agency, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, will continue monitoring avalanche danger along the I-70 corridor and several mountain passes, taking all steps possible to keep Colorodans safe.
Governor Jared Polis said, “Our abundance of snow is part of the reason why we all love living in Colorado, but winter weather still presents a serious danger in certain situations. Given the expected severity of tomorrow’s storm, I urge all Coloradans to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe, and continue to monitor the CDOT website and twitter account for updates.”
“Mother nature is flexing her muscle now, so drivers in mountain areas and throughout the state should be prepared to take extra precautions through this storm cycle,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “If you do encounter an avalanche or powder cloud, take steps to stay safe: stay in your car, slow down, pull over and stop if possible, and call 911 for help – if you see something, say something.”
“Our team has been actively shifting resources as needed to prepare for this storm,” said Kyle Lester, Director of Highway Maintenance. “But if you don’t have to be out in these conditions then it’s probably a good idea to stay put and stay safe.”
The following is a summary of conditions forecasted statewide:
METRO DENVER: Major blizzard conditions expected to impact the Denver metro area beginning tomorrow afternoon lasting through Thursday morning. Motorists are urged to avoid driving during the height of the storm. The main danger will be high winds, reduced visibility and heavy wet snow. If you are out, take it SLOW, have appropriate tires and leave plenty of safe space behind plows and the vehicles ahead. CDOT crews have been preparing for the storm getting equipment and materials ready. About 100 plows will be out beginning early tomorrow morning with the focus on interstates and high volume roads. Once the storm is over, crews then transition efforts to state maintained secondary roads. This is expected to be an intense storm with possible road closures.
I-25 Monument Hill: One of the major challenging areas during adverse weather is I-25 Monument Hill south of Castle Rock because it is the highest point along the I-25 corridor in the state of Colorado. If blizzard conditions get to the point where high winds create white out conditions, CDOT may close the road for safety reasons. Motorists should avoid this stretch during blizzard conditions.
NORTHEAST COLORADO: The emphasis shifts to the northeast plains for Wednesday night into Thursday night. High winds, at up to 70 mph gusts, and solid snowfall rates will cause blizzard conditions through Thursday night. Main impacts for blizzard conditions look to be I-25 north from north Denver to Wyoming state line, I-76 from Fort Morgan to Nebraska state line, and I-70 east from Limon to Kansas state line.
SOUTHEAST COLORADO: Becoming very windy during the day Wednesday, with a brief period (2-4 hours) of heavier snow from mid-afternoon into early evening along the entire I-25 corridor from Pueblo south to the New Mexico border. While snowfall rates may be minimal in other parts of the southeast, very strong north winds Wednesday afternoon and evening with gusts of 45 to 65 mph will create hazardous driving conditions with poor visibility.
NORTHWEST COLORADO AND I-70 MOUNTAIN CORRIDOR: The agencies will work together to determine if avalanche control operations are required to keep high country passes safe for the traveling public.
CO 139 Douglas Pass in Mesa County will close tonight around 7:00 p.m. and may not reopen until Thursday, March 14 due to avalanche danger.
CO 65 Grand Mesa will be closed tomorrow, Wed. March 13 around noon for Avalanche mitigation. Motorists are encouraged to slow down, plan ahead and be prepared to drive in tough winter conditions.
SOUTHWEST & SOUTH-CENTRAL COLORADO: Winter storm advisories, hazardous weather outlooks and high avalanche danger warnings have been issued for the southwest and south-central portions of the state. Total snow accumulations could reach 12 to 24 inches. The heaviest snows can be expected above 9,000 ft. on high mountain passes. Snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches expected over the valley floors. Also expect winds gusting as high as 40 mph in some areas. Plan on slippery road conditions at lower elevations and snow-packed conditions in the high country.
Motorists are urged to use extra caution while traveling on bridges, ramps and overpasses as they are prone to icy conditions.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
Reduce the likelihood of closures and conditions impacting your day by planning ahead. Before you go, check cotrip.org for up-to-date information on road closures and conditions, CDOT’s ONLY official road condition source. CDOT continues to provide options for getting travel alert information in front of motorists. Recently, CDOT added Twitter “Travel Alerts” to our desktop Facebook page. There are plans to make this information available on mobile devices as well.
CDOT recommends you no longer rely on the Colorado Roads App. CDOT has not supported this old mobile application in more than three years and is concerned the app does not provide reliable nor up-to-date information. CDOT’s cotrip.org is adaptive to mobile devices and is the most reliable option for conditions and closures. The site also allows users to tap into the statewide roadway camera system and snowplow tracker.
CDOT populates the phone 511 system with current closures and conditions, in addition to providing information to local media. CDOT boasts a statewide system of variable message boards (electronic signs) on many highways to get real-time information to drivers. Please do not use a mobile device while operating a vehicle.
● Road conditions and travel information: www.COtrip.org
● Sign up for project or travel alerts: bit.ly/COalerts
● See scheduled lane closures: codot.gov/travel/scheduled-lane-closures.html