Winter arrived with a vengeance last week for a white Christmas, and more snow arrived this week as well.
"We want to remind motorists that now is the time to prepare their vehicles for winter driving," said Greg Stacy, superintendent for CDOT's Maintenance Section 3, headquartered in Durango.
"Get those snow tires on now; the weather and highway conditions can change quickly around here and you want to be ready for that."
During a winter storm, CDOT maintenance crews are on standby for round-the-clock patrol shifts. Maintenance area crews are out on 24-hour operation-typically on rotating 12-hour shifts-until they reach dry road conditions. This means that during a storm, about 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.
"Our crews are ready," said David Vialpando, superintendent for CDOT's Maintenance Section 7 in Alamosa. "I'd like to remind drivers to lower their speeds in winter weather. Please take it nice and slow, drive cautiously near our plow trucks, and you will reach your destination safely."
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: $3.84 million.
NOTE: Each Maintenance Area detailed below has special crews that do 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.
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 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) 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.