News

Storm Heads Back - Winter Driving Conditions through Weekend

February 26, 2015 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Drivers urged to slow down on icy and snow packed roads, drive for conditions.

ROAD CONDITION/CLOSURE INFORMATION: To find the 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 (see the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner). Watch for winter driving photos on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @ColoradoDOT. Also, download the free CDOT Mobile for information regarding the I-70 and I-25 corridors by texting “CDOT” to 25827 or search CDOT Mobile in your App Store.

SOUTHWEST COLORADO – Another storm is headed our way, bringing another possible two feet of snow in some areas by Friday night, and up to four feet total by the time there is a break in the system (possibly Tuesday).

“Today scattered, light, snow showers will develop through the day; there might be some locally more intense showers in the afternoon over the northern San Juan mountains,” Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) Forecaster Spencer Logan said. “There is no break in snowfall before the next phase of snowy weather begins Friday afternoon. Currently, it looks like Saturday night and Monday will be periods of peak snowfall, with a break coming Tuesday.”

With as much as nine inches that fell overnight in the high country, crews have begun storm patrol shifts already in some areas. Using a variety of weather forecasting systems, including reports from CAIC forecasters, CDOT crews are preparing for a very busy extended weekend with long hours and little reprieve. They look to travelers to work with them in maintaining safety on the roadways.

“We cannot state this enough:  please slow down and drive for the conditions,” said John Palmer, deputy maintenance superintendent for CDOT Section 3 headquartered in Durango. “We will be plowing and de-icing roadways round the clock. But when the snow accumulation is rapid, motorists have to do their part and drive accordingly. Take your time; no destination is worth the risk of a collision.”

During a winter storm, CDOT maintenance crews are on standby for round-the-clock patrol shifts. Maintenance area crews (see Area and Patrol details, below) are out on 24-hour operation—typically on rotating 12-hour shifts—until they reach dry road conditions. This means that during a storm, at least half the crew members on each patrol are out at any given time, some overlapping shifts a bit to keep coverage consistent. And, when warranted, avalanche control crews are working together with CAIC forecasters to trigger avalanches before they can run naturally. Finally, when the need is great, staff from the CDOT’s Traffic and Safety section (those typically in charge of signing, striping and signals) utilize their plow training and help out on snow patrols.

The following is a summary of Maintenance Sections, Areas and Patrols in CDOT’s Region 5.

Operations for the Durango Maintenance Section are divided into three Maintenance Areas—Durango, Cortez and Ridgway—each with numerous patrol crews within. Here are the details: 

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. Total 2014/15 budget:  $3,840,131.

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. Total 2014/15 Winter Budget:  $1,019,951.

  • 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. Total 2014/15 Winter Budget:  $922,733.

  • 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. Total 2014/15 Winter Budget: $1,680,853.

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

  • 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 99 maintenance workers and about 117 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 64 snowplows, 9 of which are equipped with *MDSS—during a major storm, about 35-40 trucks are out at any given time. 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 1,530 lane-miles (the combined lengths of each lane on every highway in the section), including eight mountain passes. Total 2014/15 Winter Budget for the Alamosa Section: $2,535,180.

  • North Area

The North Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Poncha Springs (8 plows), Maysville (6 plows), Sargents (3 plows) and Buena Vista (3 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 34 maintenance workers including temporary employees and 26 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including 19 snowplows, 9 of which are equipped with MDSS). There is one truck 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 372 lane-miles including the three mountain passes mentioned above. Total 2014/15 Winter Budget:  $750,206. 

  • 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 2014/15 Winter Budget:  $983,029. 

  • East Area

The East Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Fort Garland (3 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 35 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including 18 snowplows, 12 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 2014/15 Winter Budget:  $801,945.

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

WINTER TRAVEL TIPS:

  • Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: http://www.coloradodot.info/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/.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

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 that utilize 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.

CDOT MAINTENANCE JOB OPPORTUNITIES STATEWIDE:

CDOT hires maintenance personnel year-round to join the dedicated women and men who tirelessly work to maintain Colorado’s state roadways. CDOT maintenance workers enjoy paid vacation and sick leave, medical and dental plans, life insurance, choice of retirement plans, training, work-life programs and tuition reimbursement. A commercial driver’s license and heavy equipment operation experience is required. Find out more online at http://agency.governmentjobs.com/Colorado.

Colorado: The Official State Web Portal