This is Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado

October 25, 2011 - ICE & SNOW, TAKE IT SLOW! Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Motorists encouraged to prepare vehicles for winter driving, check highway & weather conditions before holiday travel.

ROAD CONDITION/CLOSURE INFORMATION: To find the conditions and closures, log onto our traveler information site at 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 web site (see the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner).

SOUTHWEST COLORADO – Governor John Hickenlooper has proclaimed the week of October 23 through October 29 as Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado. Today, as the Colorado Department of Transportation readies its crews and equipment for a winter storm, the agency reminds motorists to do the same. It is critical that travelers know the impending conditions before setting out and prepare their vehicles for winter weather travel—for their own safety, as well as the safety of others on the road.

Motorists are encouraged to know the conditions—access CDOT’s traveler information site (or information line) for winter conditions, road alerts and safety tips. Motorists should also visit the National Weather Service site or other resource to learn more about current and changing conditions, particularly in Colorado’s high country (see links, below).

In preparation for a storm, some crews throughout CDOT’s Durango Maintenance Section (which includes three maintenance areas in southwest Colorado, detailed below) will use the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) to help them do their jobs. The MDSS combines advanced weather prediction, advanced road condition prediction and rules of practice for anti-icing and de-icing to generate road treatment recommendations on a route-by-route basis. The goal of MDSS is to provide more effective use of maintenance resources in order to increase safety, reliability and mobility on roadways.

The MDSS system allows crews to input real-time conditions, including road and ambient temperature, type of snow removal products being used and the application rate. After comparing the information to 15 weather reports, the system will then provide suggested treatments based on the information and models. The system may tell the operator to re-treat the road at a later time, apply different products at different rates or even to continue current procedures. The suggested treatment can then be followed or the operator can override the system.

“We’ve been using this system in our section over the past few seasons and it continues to be very effective,” said Kyle Lester, CDOT Maintenance Superintendent for the Durango Maintenance Section.  “As a result, we have added the MDSS to five more trucks this season to help us more effectively combat the various types of winter conditions we receive across our section. We now have 20 vehicles equipped with the MDSS.”

In addition to the MDSS, CDOT crews will use a variety of products to clear the roads of snow and ice including alternative liquid de-icers, Ice Slicer (a solid salt product), a solid de-icer and sand and salt. The two types of liquid de-icers used are magnesium chloride, effective at pavement temperatures above 16 degrees, and cold temperature-modified magnesium chloride, used when pavement temperatures fall below 16 degrees. The type of storm and location of the storm will dictate the snow removal product used. Trucks are equipped with infrared sensors to monitor ambient and pavement temperatures throughout a storm. (**Please see below for additional product details.)

The following information details the 2010-2011 winter maintenance efforts throughout the Durango Section, which operates out of four main maintenance areas and numerous patrols.

<p>The ridge of high pressure over Colorado will flatten over the next two days as a large closed low-pressure system approaches from the southwest. Warm air will continue to move into the state today with increasing amounts of moisture in the upper portion of the atmosphere. Winds will be in the low to moderate range from the west and southwest statewide. Low-level moisture will increase this evening as the closed low moves into California and begins to track across the southwest US. Precipitation, if any, will be limited to the high peaks until Thursday when moist southwest flow moves into the San Juan Mountains. The combination of the closed low and a second system moving in from the north could make for an interesting holiday weekend.</p>


Maintenance Operations for the past 2010-2011 Winter Season
(**Please see Snow Removal Products, below)

Region 5, Section 3, DURANGO

The entire Durango Maintenance Section (also see individual maintenance areas, below) has 106 maintenance workers and 107 pieces of snow removal and avalanche control equipment. Thirteen trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks. Other plow trucks will carry sand/salt for providing traction or, at optimum temperatures, sand pre-wetted with liquid deicer for traction and effective ice-melting. Durango maintenance crews take care of 1,750 lane-miles (the combined lengths of each lane on every highway in the region), including five mountain passes. During last winter (2010-2011), Durango maintenance crews plowed 405,346 total lane-miles. Crews spread 937,896 gallons of liquid deicers. They also spread 23,549 tons of sand/salt and spent 2,073 hours on avalanche control missions.  Total dollars spent: $3,372,615.

NOTE: Each Maintenance Area detailed below has special crews that additional work and/or avalanche control missions (in coordination with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center) on four mountain passes:  US 550 Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes and SH 145 Lizard Head Pass (US 160 Wolf Creek Pass is maintained by Alamosa crews). Crews from both Maintenance Sections—Durango and Alamosa—assist one another with man-power and equipment during storms, as necessary.

Durango Maintenance (King) Area

The Durango Maintenance Area has 6 patrols, located in: Pagosa Springs, Bayfield, Ignacio, Durango, Hesperus and Rockwood. The Durango Maintenance Area has 43 maintenance workers and 35 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 22 snowplows, 12 of which are equipped with MDSS). Eleven trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks. Other plow trucks carry sand/salt and for providing traction. Durango maintenance crews take care of 510.36 lane-miles. During last winter, Durango maintenance crews plowed 167,650 total lane-miles. As well, crews sprayed 543,070 gallons of liquid deicer, spread 6,115 tons of sand/salt and spent 98 hours on avalanche control missions.

Cortez Maintenance (John) Area

The Cortez Maintenance Area includes patrols in: Dove Creek, Cortez, Mancos, Dolores, Rico and Telluride. The Cortez Area has 31 maintenance workers and 37 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 23 snowplows, 6 of which are equipped with MDSS). Cortez maintenance crews take care of 650.8 lane-miles. During last winter, Cortez maintenance crews plowed 131,678 total lane-miles.  As well, crews sprayed 255,130 gallons of liquid deicer; spread 5,829 tons of sand/salt, and spent 230 hours on avalanche control missions.

Ridgway Maintenance (Mary) Area

The Ridgway Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Cascade, Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway, Norwood, Nucla and Paradox. The Area has 33 maintenance workers and 35 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including 19 snowplows, 2 of which are equipped with MDSS). One truck is equipped with a liquid deicer applicator tank. Other plow trucks carry sand/salt for providing traction. Ridgway maintenance crews take care of 588.84 lane-miles. During last winter, Ridgway maintenance crews plowed 158,109 total lane-miles. Crews sprayed 139,696 gallons of liquid deicer, spread 11,605 tons of sand/salt and spent 1,745 hours on avalanche control missions.


  1. Plan your trip! Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: for tips, road conditions, information on CDOT’s 14-hour snow plow coverage and more; or call 511 for statewide road conditions. Also, sign up for FREE wireless text and/or e-mail updates on road conditions/closures—see the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner of our web site home page. Motorists can also log onto the National Weather Service’s site at
  2. 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.
  3. If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
  4. 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 de-icer.
  5. 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.
  6. Be sure of your route. Don't go exploring in the back-country without some local knowledge, especially during a storm or when one is bearing down anywhere near your location.
  7. Be sure you have good tires. The Colorado State Patrol recommends at least 1/8 of an inch tread depth. All season radials on a front-wheel-drive passenger vehicle are adequate for most situations; install them on all four tires. Four snow tires on most rear-wheel drive vehicles are usually adequate. Chain restrictions in Colorado are most often put into effect for commercial vehicles (semi-trailer trucks) and do not usually affect passenger vehicles (please see information on Colorado’s chain law at
  8. 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. Remember you can't see around mountain curves and corners, either.
  9. In addition to these winter driving tips, CDOT reminds all motorists to respect winter weather, conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road, and never drink and drive.
  10. Always buckle up!

**Snow Removal Products:

Magnesium Chloride: In solutions that utilize up to 30 percent magnesium chloride, this product is effective for pavement surface temperatures down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit .

Cold Temperature Modified Magnesium Chloride: In solutions up to 27 percent magnesium chloride, this product is used when surface temperatures fall below approximately 15 degrees Fahrenheit. These products have a corn-processed byproduct additive that greatly lowers the freezing point of magnesium chloride.

Ice Slicer: This is a solid product made up of mainly sodium chloride; it also contains small amounts of other materials making it more effective at lower temperatures than pure sodium chloride.