EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - It happens every year when October snowstorms are forecasted - tire shops start filling up with local residents looking to prepare, albeit at the last minute, for winter weather driving.
The National Weather Service forecast shows a chance of more snow today and tonight, but the sun is expected to shine Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in the 40s. By Tuesday, the forecast shows sunny weather and temperatures in the 50s.
That's probably the best time to think about changing out the summer tires for snow tires, said Gail Britt, co-owner of Vail Discount Tire in Eagle-Vail. She said Wednesday was crazy at the shop as people checked weather reports and saw chances for snow, but once the sun comes out again it usually slows down again - at least temporarily.
"The last few days, we've been slammed," Britt said. "As soon as there's snow in the forecast, typically what happens is people decide it's time to get those tires changed or maybe time to buy new snow tires."
Cicero Da Silva, who owns Down Valley Tires in Gypsum, said there are three kinds of people when it comes to winter driving preparedness: Those who think far enough ahead to get new tires before the weather gets bad, those who come when the weather is already forecasted to get bad - like now - and those who come when snow is already on the ground, he said.
Most people are procrastinators, he said, and wait until their cars are already sliding around on slick roads. And the most extreme procrastinators wait it out until snowstorms become frequent and intense enough that their tires can't last any longer.
Just like most businesses throughout the valley, snow equals money for tire shops.
"This is the time when I really think, 'Please bring (the snow) down," Da Silva said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation geared up for Wednesday night's storm with maintenance crews who went on duty at noon.
"We're prepared for this one and ready to battle a lot more snow and ice over the next few months," said CDOT Deputy Maintenance Superintendent Dave Miller, who oversees the western portion of the Interstate 70 corridor between Idaho Springs and Vail Pass known as the Paul Maintenance Area. "All available resources will be up and operating, keeping the highways open and safe for travel this winter."
At least 20 trucks operate that section of highway around the clock during snowstorms, according to CDOT. Eight trucks, including two tankers, apply de-icers to the roads while other plow trucks distribute a sand/salt mixture and ice slicer to provide traction.
This week happens to be Winter Weather Preparedness Week, which is why CDOT, the state and Eagle County have been sending out messages about safety.
Barry Smith, Eagle County's emergency department director, has issued daily tips about winter preparedness covering topics like winter travel safety, weather outlooks and warnings and high winds. Smith's message includes preparing vehicles for winter travel.
Smith released a preparedness tip Monday outlining the items a well-equipped vehicle should always carry: adequate tires, tire chains, tow rope, sand or cat little for traction, shovel, tool kit, windshield scraper and brush, battery cables, first aid kit, flashlight, extra batteries, blankets and/or sleeping bags, extra clothing, candles, waterproof matches, high-calorie packaged food for quick energy and an empty can to melt snow for drinking.
While mid-October might not be full blown winter, the cold, white season is already proving to Colorado that it's near. Vail Mountain opens in just three weeks.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.