Winter storm may pose threat to travelers; check weather before traveling this week

Winter storm closures may cause difficulty traveling from January 16-18, 2023.
Winter storm closures may cause difficulty traveling from January 16-18, 2023.(Colorado Department of Transportation)
Published: Jan. 16, 2023 at 4:36 PM MST
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STATEWIDE, Colo. (KJCT) - Colorado Department of Transportation crews in southwest Colorado continue to tackle snowy conditions from the weekend and are ready for the upcoming winter storm that will bring another surge of heavy snow to the region starting in the late afternoon today and most of Tuesday.

The storm is expected to intensify and gain speed as it moves over the Continental Divide into Tuesday night and will continue on to eastern and northeastern Colorado where it has potential to bring heavy snow and intensify further into Wednesday.

“Motorists should be prepared to see a significant amount of snow moving from southwest Colorado to the eastern portion of our state,” said John Lorme, CDOT director of maintenance and operations. “Motorists should expect to see closures on many of our mountain passes for avalanche mitigation over the next few days and prepare for slick and hazardous conditions in the metro area, particularly during the Wednesday morning commute. The eastern plains may also experience white-out conditions which may prompt safety closures.”

Travelers are urged to “know before you go” and pay close attention to weather conditions before hitting the road. The storm will move into the Great Basin today, kicking off an active period of weather through much of Wednesday. The southwest moisture flow will favor the San Juan Mountains, foothills and adjacent canyons beginning late this afternoon. These areas will see heavy snow overnight through most of Tuesday before the storm moves further north and east by Tuesday evening. This is when the Northern Mountains and areas near the Continental Divide will see their best pulse of precipitation.

Storm totals will heavily favor the southern and western ranges, with lighter totals expected further north and east. The storm will intensify and pick up speed as it crests the Divide Tuesday night. Despite some uncertainty in the storm’s speed and track, models still agree northeast Colorado will receive a healthy dose of moisture Tuesday night through Wednesday morning.

CDOT crews west of Golden and in southwestern Colorado have been on full snow shift since before the storm as these regions experienced winter weather conditions over the weekend and will remain on snow shift throughout this next storm. All maintenance crews throughout the state will be on snow shift starting at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

During periods of snowfall, plows 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.

CDOT crews are prepared statewide:

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 Tuesday, Jan. 17, and continue into Wednesday morning. Pavement conditions will be slick and hazardous in spots on Tuesday night into the Wednesday morning commute. Heavy snow is predicted for the Plains east of Denver through Tuesday evening, with white-out 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.

Northeast Colorado

The worst conditions, starting Tuesday evening, will likely be found east of I-25 where the heavy snow will overlap with breezy northerly winds into Wednesday. Motorists should be prepared for white-out conditions and safety closures on state highways and I-70 in this region.

Southwest Colorado

Heavy snow accumulations are expected for the mountain ranges of southwest Colorado through Tuesday. Travel is expected to be difficult with potential safety closures. Heavy snow will create icy, slick and snow-packed 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 between Frisco and Vail starting tomorrow afternoon. Motorists should be prepared for potential safety closures if conditions warrant it. Significant snowfall will occur in the Grand Mesa area and along US 50, which will create treacherous driving conditions. CDOT will conduct a safety closure of Douglas Pass (Highway 139 from MP 30 to MP 72) starting at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16. Crews will reevaluate the need for the closure at daylight tomorrow morning.

Motorists should:

  • Avoid or limit driving during the brunt of the storm. Many areas of the state will experience pavement impacts and blowing snow due to strong winds.
  • Work from home if you can.
  • If you plan to travel, know before you go by checking out the latest weather conditions and visiting COtrip.org for road conditions.
  • Make sure your vehicle is winter ready with the appropriate tires for the weather and have a snow emergency kit.
  • Once you are out on the road, take it slow, no sudden stops and leave plenty of following distance.
  • Give plows space! Stay back three to four car lengths from snow plows.

Safety closures

A safety closure is a precaution taken during inclement weather to reduce the probability of traffic incidents, increased congestion or other safety-related factors. During a safety closure, traffic may be stopped on the interstate, turned around or directed to an exit. Safety closures help decrease delay times, and, above all, keep travelers safe.

Chain and Traction Laws

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-chain-law. To learn more and view helpful tips for winter driving, visit winter.codot.gov.

COtrip.org and COtrip Planner app

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.

Know Before You Go

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: