News

Spring Storm Will Make for Challenging Travel in the High Country

April 14, 2016 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Know before you go: Check highway & weather conditions before traveling

ROAD CONDITION/CLOSURE INFORMATION: To find the conditions and closures (including camera shots), 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 CDOT Alerts to your email or mobile device (go to www.codot.gov and click the white envelope at the bottom of the page). Watch for periodic winter driving photos on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @ColoradoDOT.

SOUTHWEST COLORADO – “The incoming storm system will pull copious moisture into our mountains through this weekend,” according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “The low-pressure system hunkers down over Colorado into next week, so an extended period of colder and unsettled weather is in the mix for our mountains.”

Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crews are already out on round-the-clock storm patrols, typically on 12-hour shifts, until dry conditions return to the area.

“We’ll do our very best to keep the roads clear and passable, but if you don’t have to travel, I’d advise against it; it looks like it’s going to be a big storm,” CDOT Poncha Springs Maintenance Area Supervisor Drew McFarland said. “If you do travel, please keep your speed slow and be sure to have your snow tires or, for semi drivers, your chains when the chain law is posted.”

This is what the CAIC is forecasting for southwest and south-central Colorado:

CO 17 Cumbres/La Manga Passes – Up to 20 inches possible by Saturday night
US 50 Monarch Pass:  Up to 28 inches possible by Saturday night
CO 145 Lizard Head Pass:  Up to 17 inches possible by Saturday night
US 160 Wolf Creek Pass:  Up to 20 inches possible by Saturday night
US 550 Passes (Coal Bank, Molas, Red Mountain):  Up to 14 inches possible Saturday night (please note, there will be no lane closures on the Red Mountain Pass crib wall project until next week)

During a snowstorm, 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 their shifts to keep coverage consistent. And, when warranted, avalanche control crews are working together with CAIC forecasters to trigger avalanches before they can run naturally.

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 – HEADQUARTERED 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 (including 62 snowplows, 27 of which are equipped with *MDSS. 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 2015/16 budget:  $4,146,533.

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 (4 plows), Durango (5 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 2015/16 Winter Budget:  $1,297,415.

  • Cortez Maintenance Area

The Cortez Maintenance Area includes patrols in: Dove Creek (4 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 2015/16 Winter Budget:  $1,028,752.

  • Ridgway Maintenance Area

The Ridgway Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Cascade (3 plows), Silverton (3 plows), Ouray (3 plows), Ridgway (5 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 2015/16 Winter Budget: $1,820,366.

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 – HEADQUARTERED IN 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, 29 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 2015/16 Winter Budget for the Alamosa Section: $3,120,247.

  • North Area

The North Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Poncha Springs (9 plows), Maysville (5 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 26 maintenance workers including temporary employees and 26 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including approximately 20 snowplows, 13 of which are equipped with MDSS). There is one truck equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks and ten 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 2015/16 Winter Budget: $1,007,580. 

  • 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 approximately 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 2015/16 Winter Budget: $1,137,590. 

  • 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 approximately 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 2015/16 Winter Budget: $975,077.

*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:

  • Know before you go! Visit CDOT’s traveler information site at www.cotrip.org; sign up for “CDOT Alerts” in your chosen area by going to www.codot.gov and choosing the white envelope at the bottom of the page; log onto CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at:  https://www.codot.gov/travel/winter-driving for road conditions winter driving tips and other information.

  • 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 deicer.

  • 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) but can also affect passenger vehicles (always check conditions and chain law restrictions on www.cotrip.org before heading out).

  • 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.

  • 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!

CDOT MAINTENANCE JOB OPPORUNITIES 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.             

Still camera shots, like this one, below, showing an ominous sky on Monarch Pass, are accessible on www.cotrip.org. Visit our Interactive Map on the home page.

Monarch Pass

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