Winter storm could start something wonderful in Central Rockies winter weather | VailDaily.com

Winter storm could start something wonderful in Central Rockies winter weather

VAIL — The storm on Wednesday, Jan. 10, might be the opening salvo in a series of storms through the Vail Valley.

Maybe … possibly … hopefully.

With Wednesday's storm possibly followed by a quick hitter on Friday, and possibly followed by another the middle of next week, this Colorado winter might begin at least looking like a Colorado winter.

"An active pattern might be setting up by the end of next week," said Mike Meyers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

"We all need it," Meyers said.

Heavy, blowing snow will end about noon Thursday, Jan. 11. Accumulations could hit 8 to 16 inches, with some areas getting even more.

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The Gore Range and Flat Tops are expected to be hit the hardest, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

All precipitation is good

This week's storms will help … any precipitation would. The statewide snowpack is about 54 percent of what it should be, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The water year began Oct. 1, 2017, and Colorado has seen above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation and snowpack accumulation since then.

"We're doing better than many places," Meyers said.

It could be worse. In southwest Colorado, snowpack in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins is only 21 percent of normal.

The Rio Grande is only 29 percent of normal.

CDOT's ready

The Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crews have been stocking ice removal products and keeping snow removal equipment ready to go, said Tracy Trulove, CDOT public information officer based in Glenwood Springs.

If needed, then CDOT will shift people and equipment resources up from Gypsum or Glenwood to Vail Pass, Trulove said.

"Just as we get ready for the winter, we're recommending that drivers do the same, such as ensuring their vehicle is properly winterized, including making sure that they have adequate tread on their tires or have good snow tires," said Kyle Lester, CDOT's maintenance division director. "We're also reminding the traveling public to give our plows plenty of room and not pass them on the right so they can safely clear the highway."

When a storm is predicted, CDOT crews begin 24-hour operations — rotating 12-hour shifts — until roads return to normal driving conditions. Avalanche control crews also work with forecasters from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to trigger avalanches along mountain highways before the avalanches run naturally.

Traction Law

Colorado has a traction law, and state officials are serious about it.

Without proper equipment, you can be fined $130. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, then you could be fined more than $650. There are a couple of tiers to the law:

• Traction Law — Motorists need snow tires, tires with mud/snow (M/S) designation or a four-wheel-drive vehicle. All tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.

• Passenger Vehicle Chain Law — Every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device, such as an AutoSock.

"While our crews do their best battling Mother Nature, we're reminding motorists to drive appropriately for conditions, which means to slow down when driving on wet or snowy roads," Lester said. "In addition, they should give themselves plenty of time to reach their destination."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

CDOT’s Region 3

• Consists of Delta, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Jackson, Lake, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose (east), Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.

• 386 maintenance workers.

• 203 pieces of snow removal equipment.

• 5,742 lane miles serviced and maintained.

Source: Colorado Department of Transportation