Severe weather and heavy traffic likely for Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend

Travel Advisory

January 17, 2020 - Statewide News

Statewide The Colorado Department of Transportation urges motorists to plan for severe weather and heavy traffic during the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday weekend. CDOT asks holiday travelers to always check road and weather conditions for the route you plan to take before beginning your trip. Road conditions are always available at (mobile-friendly), and are posted automatically to CDOT’s Twitter account. Please note a new brochure available online for tourists visiting Colorado. 

Current watches, warnings and advisories on 1-17-20 map

High wind watches and warnings are in effect for most of the front range, including Denver and the I-25 corridor, from 1pm Friday to 2pm Saturday. High profile vehicles should be prepared for the potential of high wind advisories and high wind restrictions on roadways throughout the state. Visibility will also be a concern with high winds and snowfall, which could cause ground blizzards. 

CDOT anticipates extreme conditions on I-70 for the peak traffic period on Friday, as motorists head into the mountains for the holiday weekend. CDOT asks motorists to delay travel on the I-70 Mountain Corridor until Saturday, unless drivers are equipped with proper tires for winter travel in the mountains. The National Weather Service is forecasting a fast, heavy snowstorm on Friday, January 17. Snow showers are expected to develop by sunrise Friday, with a heavy burst of snow and wind is expected along the corridor between 10am - 1pm. Snow totals may not seem significant (3” - 7”) but heavy snowfall rates in a short period of time will likely affect a high number of drivers on the road. The storm is anticipated to affect Rabbit Ears Pass as well. Snow will likely decrease during Friday afternoon with little additional accumulation expected after about 8pm. Drier weather is expected for the rest of the weekend. 

CDOT anticipates high winds will also dramatically affect weekend holiday traffic on Friday along the I-25 corridor. The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Watch Friday morning through Friday evening for the foothills and northern plains up to the Wyoming border. Westerly winds are expected to be between 25-35mph and possible gusts up to 70 mph. Closures north of Fort Collins along I-25 may occur depending on the wind event. Previous high winds have affected tractor trailers as well as small vehicles. Light snow showers are also expected on Friday along the Front Range foothills.

A Winter Storm Warning is currently in effect for The San Juan Mountains until Friday night. More consistent, longer-lasting and heavier snowfall accumulations are expected compared to other parts of Colorado. Southwest Colorado high country areas will also experience high winds, resulting in blowing snow and reduced visibility on roadways. CDOT asks travelers to be aware of potential road closures if the storm causes unsafe driving conditions, particularly along CO 145 Lizard Head Pass, US 550 mountain pass corridor and US 160 Wolf Creek Pass.


CDOT urges motorists to limit driving while it is snowing.  However, if you must drive during the storm, keep these tips in mind:

  • Drive slowly and reduce your speed. 
  • Leave plenty of space behind the vehicle ahead.
  • Do not pass the plows. 
  • Know before you go and take responsibility for your own safety. Check for the latest road conditions before heading out.
  • Make sure your car is prepared for winter conditions with the proper tires, a snow scraper, and other necessary items. Utilize this winter driving preparedness checklist for everything you need to have in your vehicle. 


  • Snow plows need space to work, so unless you want to cause a crash, delays or be stuck on a snow-covered road, don't crowd the plow!
  • If you must pass a snowplow, do so on the left and with extreme caution.


As an alternative to driving in the mountains on the weekends and for greater peace of mind, motorists can take advantage of CDOT’s recently introduced Snowstang, which began operations this December. Snowstang provides Saturday and Sunday roundtrip bus service between Denver and the Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin, Steamboat Resort, and Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. 

For all three lines, passengers can board at Denver Union Station or the Denver Federal Center. Roundtrip tickets for Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin start at $25. A roundtrip to Steamboat Springs (Steamboat Resort and Howelsen Hill) is $40.00. Additional discounts will be available for seniors and children. To purchase tickets, visit


In early 2019, CDOT announced its Whole System. Whole Safety initiative to heighten safety awareness. This initiative takes a systematic, statewide approach to safety combining the benefits of CDOT’s programs that address driving behaviors, our built environment and the organization's operations. The goal is to improve the safety of Colorado’s transportation network by reducing the rate and severity of crashes and improving the safety of all transportation modes. The program has one simple mission – to get everyone home safely.