A bit of winter weather returns, and Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crews are ready. The Colorado State Patrol is ready too, and hopeful that motorists will prep their vehicles, know the conditions and drive slowly.
The National Weather Service is calling for a 50 percent chance of snow Thursday night. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 13. Wind chill values between zero and 10. West northwest wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches possible.
On Friday, NWS says there is a 30 percent chance of snow, mainly between 8am and 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 28. Wind chill values between -5 and 5. Blustery, with a west northwest wind 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph.
“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.”
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.