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Brief Storm Developing in the Region

January 9, 2014 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Expect winter driving conditions with up to 8 inches in some areas over the next 36 hours.

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

SOUTHWEST/SOUTH-CENTRAL COLORADO –  A bit of winter weather returns, and Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) maintenance crews are ready. The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) is ready too, and hopeful that motorists will prep their vehicles, know the conditions and drive slowly. “Even when mountain passes are well plowed, there are going to be icy spots and often blowing and drifting snow,” CSP Captain George Dingfelder said. “One of the biggest issues is that people are driving entirely too fast for the conditions.”

Dingfelder also mentions the need to watch for wildlife crossing the highway, which can be particularly hazardous to motorists traveling on snow-packed roads through blowing snow.

“The key is to be on the lookout for wildlife crossing and slow down if you can, but don’t swerve to miss an animal—you could put yourself or other motorists in more danger.”

In the San Luis Valley, motorists should expect snowfall amounts of 4-8" at Monarch Pass (US 50) and 3-6" at Wolf Creek Pass (US 160) and Cumbres/La Manga Pass (SH 17) in the next 36 hours, according to forecasters with Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). Strong winds at Monarch will contribute to blowing and drifting snow.

“Storm totals by the end of the weekend at Monarch look to be around 10" with little if any additional for the southern passes on Saturday and Sunday,” CAIC Forecaster Mark Mueller reports. “Dry conditions return for the beginning of next week.”

On the other side of the mountain in Silverton, CAIC forecaster Susan Hale reports that skies have cleared for the time being, with snow amounts over the past two days at about 1 to 2 inches south of town and 3 to 4 inches near Red Mountain Pass (US 550). Hale, who provides forecasts for CDOT on US 550’s Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes, will post her forecast later today as the snow resumes. Motorists should prepare for some winter weather travel and check CDOT’s traveler information site for updates on road conditions (www.cotrip.org).

“We’ll see a lull today, followed by a little better bump in snow later this afternoon and tonight,” Hale said.

For SH 145 over Lizard Head Pass (and areas north), CAIC Forecaster Ann Mellick notes that light snowfall and increasing winds will continue this morning as this system get closer.

“There is a lot of moisture, but the system passes by quickly, which will limit the snow totals,” Mellick reports. “We're generally looking at an additional 4 to 8 inches overnight; and strong westerly winds continue into Friday, which could make for some whiteout conditions tomorrow.”

Mellick expects another pulse of moisture on Saturday night, and light snow on and off through the weekend. A high pressure ridge pushes into Colorado early next week and things will dry through Wednesday.

During any given storm, at least half of CDOT’s crew members will be out at one time, working 24/7 until the storm subsides and roadways and shoulders are cleared. The following information provides details on patrol locations and staff numbers for the department’s two southwest maintenance sections in Durango and Alamosa.

CDOT MAINTENANCE 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 section), including five mountain passes. During last winter (2012-2013), Durango maintenance crews plowed 383,393 total lane-miles. Crews spread 1,165,274 gallons of liquid deicers. They also spread 23,557 tons of sand/salt and spent 1,640 hours on avalanche control missions. Total dollars spent last winter (2012-13):  $4,359,253.93. (This year’s 2013-14 budget is:  $5,750,409.)

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 Area

The Durango Maintenance Area has 6 patrols, located in: Pagosa Springs (4 plows), Bayfield (3 plows), Ignacio (3 plows), Durango (4 plows), Hesperus (4 plows) and Rockwood (3 plows). The Durango Maintenance Area has 43 maintenance workers and 35 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 21 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 137,701 total lane-miles. As well, crews sprayed 626,898 gallons of liquid deicer, spread 6,938 tons of sand/salt and spent 237 hours on avalanche control missions. Total 2014 Winter Budget (for this current season): $1,559,488.

Cortez Maintenance Area

The Cortez Maintenance Area includes patrols in: Dove Creek (3 plows), Cortez (5 plows), Mancos (4 plows), Dolores (3 plows), Rico (4 plows) and Telluride (3 plows). The Cortez Area has 27 maintenance workers and 37 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 22 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 129,942 total lane-miles. As well, crews sprayed 301,252 gallons of liquid deicer; spread 6,341 tons of sand/salt, and spent 103 hours on avalanche control missions. Total 2014 Budget (for this current season): $1,126,773.

Ridgway Maintenance Area

The Ridgway Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Cascade (3 plows), Silverton (3 plows), Ouray (3 plows), Ridgway (4 plows), Norwood (2 plows), Nucla (3 plows) and Paradox (1 plow). 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 115,750 total lane-miles. Crews sprayed 237,124 gallons of liquid deicer, spread 10,278 tons of sand/salt and spent 1,299 hours on avalanche control missions. Total 2014 Budget (for this current season): $1,585,194.

CDOT MAINTENANCE SECTION 7 – ALAMOSA

CDOT’s Alamosa Maintenance Section covers all of South-Central Colorado, including the counties of Alamosa, Archuleta, Chaffee, Conejos, Costilla, Fremont, Gunnison, Rio Grande, Saguache, Huerfano and east Mineral. The Alamosa Maintenance Section has some 113 maintenance workers and about 117 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 64 snowplows, 9 of which are equipped with *MDSS). Nine trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks. Other plow trucks will carry sand/salt and ice slicer (a solid salt product) for providing traction and de-icing. Alamosa maintenance crews take care of 1,727 lane-miles (the combined lengths of each lane on every highway in the section), including eight mountain passes. Total 2014 Budget for the Alamosa Section: $3,010,628.00.

Operations for the Alamosa Maintenance Section are divided into three Maintenance Areas, each with numerous patrol crews within. Here are the details:

North Area

The North Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Poncha Springs (8 plows), Maysville (6 plows), Sargents (3 plows) and Buena Vista (5 plows). Work in the North Area includes three passes: US 285 Poncha Pass, US 24 Trout Creek Pass and US 50 Monarch Pass. The Area has 31 maintenance workers including temporary employees and 26 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including 20 snowplows, 9 of which are equipped with MDSS). There are two trucks equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks and seven combo units (that also carry sand/salt). Other plow trucks will carry sand/salt and ice slicer (a solid salt product) for providing traction. North Area maintenance crews take care of 400 lane-miles including the three mountain passes mentioned above.  Total 2014 Winter Budget:  $873,000.

West Area

The West Maintenance Area has patrols in:  Monte Vista (3 plows), South Fork (8 plows), Saguache (5 plows), Pagosa Springs (3 plows) and Creede (2 plows). Work out of this Maintenance Area includes US 160 Wolf Creek Pass and SH 114 Cochatopa/North Pass. The Area has 34 maintenance workers including temporary employees and 38 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including 19 snowplows, 4 of which are equipped with MDSS). Four trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks.  Other plow trucks will carry sand/salt and ice slicer (a solid salt product) for providing traction. West area maintenance crews take care of 550 lane-miles including two mountain passes. Total 2014 Winter Budget:  $1,144,200.00

East Area

The East Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Fort Garland (2 plows), US 160 La Veta Pass (3 plows), Alamosa (8 plows), Antonito (3 plows) and SH 17 La Manga Pass (4 plows; and work out of this patrol also includes SH 17 Cumbres Pass). The Area has 31 maintenance workers including temporary employees and 32 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including 20 snowplows, 10 of which are equipped with MDSS). Five trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks. Other plow trucks will carry sand and ice slicer for providing traction. East Area maintenance crews take care of 608 lane-miles including three mountain passes. Total 2014 Winter Budget:  $993,428.

WINTER TRAVEL TIPS: Plan your trip! Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: http://www.coloradodot.info/travel/winter-driving 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 http://weather.gov/.

*Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS), installed on many CDOT plow trucks throughout the state, 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 CDOT 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.

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