Winter arrives |

Winter arrives

Moffat County finds its 'winter driving legs' with first snow

Paul Shockley

Moffat County welcomed winter’s first true blast with a collective shrug.

“I was sitting here all day waiting for the crisis to happen,” said Marty Smith, trooper with Craig-based troop of the Colorado State Patrol.

“I didn’t have a call.”

While counterparts covering Routt County worked 12 accidents, Smith said his 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift Tuesday was quiet, aside from one van that slipped off U.S. Highway 40 west of the city. There were no injuries, he said.

“It was a surprising day,” Smith said, who covered roads around the city, while a second trooper worked western Moffat County, and a third kept an eye on the Meeker area.

“It usually takes one big storm for people to get their winter driving legs under them,” Smith said.

The trooper credited the uneventful day to slow plow efforts by the Colorado Department of Transportation, particularly as the wet turned to ice late Tuesday afternoon.

“Roads were really in good shape and CDOT did a really good job,” Smith said.

Several of Craig’s auto shops offering towing services also noted the quiet. One shop said winter’s first big dump typically produces a half-dozen ditched motorists needing tows.

“That could very well change today,” said Curtis Thompson, owner of Craig’s TNT Custom Body and Paint.

CDOT’s snow plow crews kept busy Tuesday, clearing the white stuff and laying down sand-gravel mixes through Craig, as well as north, west and south of the city.

“We finally got some snow,” said Mike Delong, CDOT assistant superintendent in Craig.

“If it’s freezing up tonight we’ll be sanding around stoplights or anywhere people will be turning,” he said.

Shifting crews operating snowplows out of the east CDOT facility cleared roads along U.S. Highway 40 east to roughly Maybell, south of the highway along state Highway 13 to Colowyo Coal Company until overlapping efforts from Rio Blanco County, and north along Highway 13 to the Wyoming border, Delong said.

Delong said that, with the exception of the northern route, CDOT would continue clearing those roads 24 hours a day. The highway to Wyoming would be cleared over 16-hour periods.

“Trucks will be out early clearing before the school buses get running,” Delong said.

Jim Loughran, activities director with the Moffat County School District, said Tuesday’s storm didn’t affect busing plans for school athletic events.

“Knock on wood,” said Jim Baptist, the school district’s transportation director.

Routes picking up and returning district children can stretch up to 70 miles, both morning and evening, he said.

“We’re doing fine so far,” Baptist said. “The county does such a good job of managing the bus routes.”

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 to at

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