Ice & Snow, Take it Slow!



Motorists encouraged to winterize vehicles, review safety tips, check roadway conditions each trip

Ice & Snow, Take it Slow!

SOUTHWEST COLORADO - Now THIS is the winter storm we've been waiting for! Southwest Colorado is experiencing a full-on storm today, this time in the valleys as well as the mountains. Colorado Department of Transportation Maintenance crews are now on winter storm patrols-24-hour operation (with two 12-hour shifts) until they reach dry road conditions.

CDOT's Durango Maintenance Section covers eight southwest counties and four mountain passes, including those on US 550, which boasts 110 known avalanche slide paths. Sixty-three of these paths are controlled by CDOT crews, working with Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) forecasters, because they impact the highway. Crews also control avalanche paths on SH 145 over Lizard Head Pass (Wolf Creek Pass on US 160 is controlled out of CDOT's Alamosa Maintenance Section.)

According to the CAIC posting today for southwest Colorado, heavy snow will continue to accumulate. Yesterday (Sunday),very sensitive wind slabs were reported on steep leeward slopes. There will be new wind loading patterns and dynamic changes in stability should be expected. The avalanche danger will rise very quickly through today as new slabs form above old, weak snow. The avalanche danger for the Southern San Juan zone is noted as "CONSIDERABLE." High winds and heavy snow may push the danger on upper elevation leeward slopes to HIGH by Tuesday morning. (Log on to http://avalanche.state.co.us/).

"We always see more accidents on our highways during the first big storm of the season," CDOT Durango Maintenance Superintendent Paul DeJulio said. "We want to remind motorists to prepare their vehicles for winter weather-with snow tires, ice scrapers, washer fluid-and just take it slow-VERY slow."

Region 5, Section 3, DURANGO
The Durango Maintenance Section has 100-plus maintenance workers and 110-plus 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 (2008-09), Durango maintenance crews plowed 435,788 total lane-miles, as compared with 496,501 during the winter of 2007-08. Crews spread 374,839 gallons of liquid deicers, well down from the 1,032,961 gallons spread the previous year. They also spread 23,510.5 tons of sand/salt (down from 26,567 tons in 07-08); spent 3,646 hours on avalanche control missions (3,699 in 07-08); 149.5 hours on ice control (slightly down from 151.5 hours); and 4,980.75 hours on special snow removal (down from 7,495 hours in 07-08). Total dollars spent:  $3,399,931(previous season, $3,575,605).

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 Coalbank, 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, Bayfield, Ignacio, Durango, Hesperus and Rockwood. The Durango Maintenance Area has 31 maintenance workers and 24 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment. 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 163,851.6 (178,966 in 07-08).  As well, crews sprayed 223,166 gallons of liquid deicer (587,062 in the previous winter); spread 6,715 tons of sand/salt (7,096 in 07-08); and spent 423.5 hours (down from 474.5 hours) on avalanche control missions.

Cortez Maintenance Area
The Cortez Maintenance Area includes patrols in: Dove Creek, Cortez, Mancos, Dolores, Rico and Telluride. The Cortez Area has 27 maintenance workers and 38 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment. One truck is equipped with a liquid deicer applicator tank. Other plow trucks carry sand/salt for providing traction. Cortez maintenance crews take care of 650.8 lane-miles. During last winter, Cortez maintenance crews plowed 142,198 total lane-miles (slightly down from 149,082 the previous season). As well, crews sprayed 150,859 gallons of liquid deicer (down from 226,449 gallons in 07-08); spread 7,229.25 tons of sand/salt (down from 8,297), and spent 693.5 on avalanche control missions (up from 401 hours in 07-08).

Ridgway Maintenance Area
The Ridgway Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway, Norwood, Nucla and Paradox. The Area has 28 maintenance workers and 42 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment. 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 527.1 lane-miles. During last winter, Ridgway maintenance crews plowed 129,738 total lane-miles (168,453 in 07-08). Crews sprayed just 814 gallons of liquid deicer (a large decrease from the 219,450 in 07-08, as one de-icing vehicle was down last year); spread 9,565.75 tons of sand/salt (compared to 11,173 last season) and spent 2,529 hours (down from 2,823 hours) on avalanche control missions.


Log on to CDOT's Winter Driving web page at: http://www.dot.state.co.us/TravelInfo/WinterDriving/Index.cfm for tips, road conditions, information on CDOT's 14-hour snow plow coverage and more; or call 511 for statewide road conditions.
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.
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. Of course, always buckle up!

"Finally, a reminder to not pass a plow truck on the right; we may have a wing blade extended and this maneuver is not be safe," DeJulio said. "Drive slowly and let us clear the roadway for you."