As winter slowly sets in on Colorado, particularly over the mountain passes, Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crews have begun their winter patrols.
In CDOT's Craig maintenance section, which covers northwest and north-central Colorado, crews have already battled winter conditions, albeit relatively mild thus far on the highways they take care of.
"We've had a couple of reasonable storms already this year," CDOT's Craig Maintenance Superintendent Kandi Lukow said. "It's important for motorists to remember that during these early storms, warmer daytime temperatures lead to melting, then sometimes to the formation of ice on the roadways as temperatures drop between dusk and dawn. We encourage everyone to drive slowly, and respect the changing conditions."
Lukow also notes that last winter brought a great deal of wind to the area.
"Blowing snow makes driving difficult for motorists and our plow drivers, alike," she said. "If you must travel during a high-wind day, please use your headlights, slow down and pass with extra caution, and know the roadway, and please drive defensively."
Below are CDOT recommended winter travel tips:
• Log on to CDOT's Winter Driving web page at: www.dot.state.co.us/TravelInfo/WinterDriving/Index.cfm or www.dot.state.co.us/TravelInfo/WinterDriving/Index.cfm for tips, road conditions and other information, or call 511 for statewide road conditions.
• 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 de-icer.
• 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.
• Be sure of your route. Don't go exploring in the back-country without some local knowledge, especially during a storm or when one is bearing down anywhere near your location.
• Be sure you have good tires. The Colorado State Patrol recommends at least 1/8 of an inch tread depth. All season radials on a front-wheel-drive passenger vehicle are adequate for most situations; install them on all four tires. Four snow tires on most rear-wheel drive vehicles usually are adequate.
• Chain restrictions in Colorado most often are put into effect for commercial vehicles (semi-trailer trucks) and usually do not affect passenger vehicles.
• 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. Remember, you can't see around mountain curves and corners, either.
• In addition to these winter driving tips, CDOT reminds all motorists to respect winter weather, conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road, and never drink and drive. Of course, always buckle up.
The Craig maintenance section includes six counties - Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand, Rio Blanco, and part of Garfield - and is broken into two separate maintenance areas, and their patrols.
Craig Maintenance Area
The Craig Maintenance Area includes patrols in: Skull Creek, Maybell, Craig, Rangely, Rifle, Meeker, Hayden, Steamboat Springs, and Yampa. The Craig Area has 45 full-time maintenance workers, a winter part-time worker, and three winter temporary positions. For winter operations, 27 sander units, three sander/de-icer units, five straight de-icer units, six motor-graders and 10 loaders are prepared for use.
The Craig area maintains 942 lane miles (the total length of all lanes on each state highway). For the 2007-08 winter season, crews plowed 361,897 total lane miles (216,856 in 06-07), sprayed 212,868 gallons of liquid deicers (200,960 in 06-07) and spread 14,728 tons of sand/salt products on the roadways (10,718 tons in 06-07).
They expended 71 hours of ice control and 3,189.50 hours of specialized snow removal with heavy equipment. Total 2007-08 Craig Area winter budget: $1,655,784.75 ($1,266,825 in the previous season).