Colorado Department of Transportation crews are preparing to respond to the strongest storm the state has experienced this season. Motorists will encounter travel impacts through mid-week. While Colorado’s high country will see heavy amounts of snowfall over several days, the northeastern plains are bracing for blizzard-like conditions.
“The harsh travel conditions resulting from this severe weather system will make an opportune time for folks to stay off the roads, stay home and work remotely if you can,” said John Lorme, CDOT Director of Maintenance and Operations. “Limiting non-essential travel will help our crews address the snowy highways, creating safer conditions for motorists and our workers.”
Travelers are urged to “know before you go” and pay close attention to weather conditions before hitting the road. Today’s storm action is focused over the central and southern mountains with some mountain passes forecasted to receive a foot of new snow by this evening. The storm system is tracking eastward across Colorado tonight and tomorrow, bringing snow into the remaining mountains, valleys and lower elevations east of the Continental Divide. By Wednesday, snowfall will dissipate, but gusty winds and blowing snow may continue over the far northeast plains making travel treacherous. Because there is some uncertainty in the forecasted severity of the storm for Denver metro-area communities, checking for updated conditions ahead of possible travel will be important throughout the next several days.
CDOT crews across the state have been in full snow shifts since before the storm. This morning, crews began pretreating some major routes and areas prone to freezing such as bridge decks and shaded areas. The pretreatment helps to melt the snow and ice on pavement, but travelers should be aware that road conditions will continue to be slick.
During periods of snowfall, trucks will make continuous passes on state-maintained roads and spread deicer materials to help break down the snow and ice. CDOT uses both liquid and solid deicers to help melt the ice once it has started to stick on the pavement. Motorists often believe that CDOT maintains local and residential roads, including neighborhood streets. However, cities and counties are responsible for local and residential roads—not CDOT.
Denver Region and the I-70 Mountain Corridor east of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel
Impacts in the Denver region are expected to start late in the evening on Monday, Dec. 12, and continue into Tuesday morning with two to three inches of snow in the metro area and up to four inches in the northern area of Denver. Pavement conditions will be slick as temperatures fall through the night. Heavy snow is predicted for the Plains east of Denver through Tuesday evening, with blizzard conditions expected.
Crews make continuous plow passes on the most heavily traveled state-maintained routes first, including I-25, I-70, I-76, I-270, I-225, C-470 and other major routes. Once the storm subsides, crews will plow other state routes.
CDOT will be in full snow shift beginning today on the I-70 Mountain Corridor from Golden to the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel. Snow is likely this afternoon and evening with some blowing snow and heavy snowfalls at times. Poor visibility is expected after midnight with windchills five to fifteen degrees below zero. Snow, blowing snow and poor visibility are expected to continue through Tuesday night.
Snow shifts begin this afternoon and evening in El Paso County and the Pueblo, Trinidad and South Park areas. Primary areas expected to be impacted are U.S. 160/La Veta Pass and I-25/Raton Pass. Monument Hill is expecting minimal amounts of snow. The Arkansas Valley remains on standby if the storm tracks to Southeast Colorado.
Blizzard conditions are expected in areas east of Greeley and along the eastern plains of northwest Colorado on Tuesday morning. Strong winds gusting up to 60 mph will produce blowing and drifting snow even after the snow ends, leading to possible extended road closures into Wednesday and possibly even Thursday in rural areas as the wind continues. CDOT is working with partners in Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas to coordinate possible closures. This means that even if the Colorado side of highway is OK, roads may be closed for travel into other states because of conditions there.
Southwest & South-Central Colorado
Heavy snow accumulations are expected for the mountain ranges of southwest and south-central Colorado through Wednesday. Travel is expected to be difficult with blowing snow and low visibility. Freezing temperatures will also create icy, slick road conditions. Once the storm has cleared, periodic road closures can be expected on mountain passes to allow for avalanche mitigation operations, possibly through Thursday.
I-70 Mountain Corridor and Northwest Colorado
Snow expected along the I-70 Mountain Corridor with higher totals starting at the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnel and moving east. Further NW, US Highway 40 will receive much higher snow totals, with more than 20 inches possible through Thursday for Rabbit Ears Pass. Heavy snow is also expected along US 40 near Craig, as well as CO 139 Douglas Pass, CO 65 Grand Mesa, CO 133 McClure Pass and on CO 82 near Aspen. Motorists should plan for winter driving conditions, including blowing snow, low visibility, low temperatures.
When weather conditions warrant, CDOT will activate the Traction Law. If weather conditions deteriorate, CDOT will activate Chain Laws for passenger and commercial vehicles. Motorists will be alerted to an active Traction or Chain Law by highway signage, COtrip.org and traffic/roadway condition alerts. For more information on the Traction Law and Passenger Vehicle Chain Law requirements, visit codot.gov/travel/winter-driving/tractionlaw. For more information on the Commercial Vehicle Chain Law requirements, visit codot.gov/travel/colorado-
If motorists must head out during this winter storm, they are urged to visit COtrip.org and download the COtrip Planner app ahead of time. Motorists are now able to sign up for travel alerts through COtrip.org to see if there are any highway closures or impacts along their favorite routes. The COtrip Planner app also offers a “Trip Planner” feature that allows motorists to map out their routes and receive updates about road closures or incidents along the way. Motorists can turn on the “Hands-Free, Eyes Free” feature to receive these alerts via voice notifications and avoid routes with impacts.
CDOT is also pleased to offer motorists the opportunity to track CDOT snow plows on the app and website, and can even follow some of our “celebrity” plows that were named by elementary school students last year. Using the snow plow tracker allows motorists to see where our plows have been and even see what the road conditions look like by viewing the cameras in the area of the plows. CDOT plows have thousands of miles of roadway to maintain, so motorists are asked to please be patient and are reminded to never pass a plow on the right or while in echelon formation. It is always safer to stay behind a plow.
Travelers are urged to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts and anticipated travel impacts and current road conditions prior to hitting the road. CDOT resources include:
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