Tag Archives: Saguache weather

CDOT Issues Travel Advisory

The Colorado Department of Transportation advises travelers to use caution and plan ahead as an end-of-year winter storm will impact many areas of the state today and tomorrow. This storm will bring snowfall to much of Colorado through Saturday, with southwest and northeast Colorado seeing higher accumulations. Strong northerly winds are expected to develop on Saturday, leading to areas of blowing and drifting snow, with considerable travel impacts possible.  

Motorists should expect heavy traffic volumes on most roadways due to holiday travel. CDOT urges travelers to be prepared not only for possible delays, but also winter driving conditions. Extreme caution is advised if driving in the mountains. While packing vehicles with gifts and suitcases, make sure there is room for an emergency kit. Emergency kits should include chains/alternative traction devices, water, sand/cat litter, flares, jumper cables, blankets, etc. 

Motorists are urged to take it slow, leave a safe space behind the vehicle ahead, don’t pass plows and avoid driving during the height of a storm. Drivers should anticipate safety closures due to unsafe driving conditions. CDOT and CSP make every attempt to hold traffic in areas where services are available. While safety closures are more likely on mountain passes, they can happen on any roadway deemed unsafe for travel. Conditions at closure points may seem drivable, however, CDOT and CSP are keeping drivers away from areas with extreme conditions. Do not go around closure points and use extreme caution when using GPS suggested alternate routes to get around safety closures.

TRAVEL IMPACTS

Southwest Colorado: Heavy accumulations of snow will continue throughout the day today, as southwest mountain passes will see ten to 18 inches of new snow. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for the southwest San Juan Mountains through 5 a.m. on Saturday. Travel could be difficult to impossible.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has also issued an avalanche watch for the southern San Juans. Avalanche danger is expected to be high due to heavy snowfall and strong winds. These conditions may call for avalanche control operations on US 160 Wolf Creek Pass; US 550 Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain Passes; and CO 145 Lizard Head Pass. High country travelers can expect delays. Visit COtrip.org for road conditions and avalanche control operations alerts. 

Northern Colorado: The northern plains will see significant impacts from this storm. The I-70/ I-76 corridor will likely see snow accumulations on Saturday between five to ten inches, with wind gusts expected over 40 mph. This will reduce visibility on the roadways. Motorists should be prepared for roadway closures and challenging driving conditions. 

I-70 Mountain Corridor: I-70 will see snowfall rates increase overnight tonight with total accumulation of three to six inches.

Front Range and I-25 corridor: Motorists should expect snow on the Front Range and I-25 corridor on Saturday, with moderate impacts. Depending on the storm’s track, accumulations may fluctuate. Denver Metro will see colder temperatures and two to four inches of snowfall is possible. The I-25 Gap project may see snow totals higher than the urban corridor, especially between Castle Rock to the crest of the Palmer Divide.  Motorists are advised to avoid or limit driving on I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, particularly on Monument Hill during the storm.  Safety closures are possible depending on the severity of the storm. Most crashes in this area occur due to driving too fast for the conditions, following too closely and vehicles not having the appropriate tires for the weather. I-25 Raton Pass in southeast Colorado could see snowfall in the area of four to seven inches. Wind will be a factor with this storm with gusts exceeding 30 mph, east of I-25.

SNOWSTANG

As an alternative to driving in the mountains this weekend and for greater peace of mind, motorists will be able to take advantage of CDOT’s recently introduced Snowstang. Snowstang will provide Saturday and Sunday roundtrip bus service between Denver and the Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin, Steamboat Resort, and Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs. 

CHAIN and TRACTION LAWS 

CDOT urges travelers to be aware of chain and traction law codes before heading out on the roadway.

  • Code 18/Commercial Chain Law: Commercial vehicles and trucks must have chains. Vehicles without chains can often lose traction, causing traffic delays and sometimes road closures. For the safety of the traveling public, it’s critical to use chains to be in compliance with Colorado’s chain law.
  • Code 15/Passenger Traction Law: All passenger vehicles must have appropriate all-weather tires with 3/16-inch depth. Vehicles must have one of the following: winter tires, tires with mud/snow (M+S) designation, chains or alternative traction devices such as an autosock. 4WD and AWD vehicles must have winter tires or all weather tires.
  • Code 16/Passenger Chain Law: All passenger vehicles need chains, except for 4WD and AWD vehicles with all-weather tires with 3/16 inch tread depth.

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:

ABOUT CDOT

CDOT has approximately 3,000 employees located throughout Colorado, and manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of other agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also administers Bustang, the state-owned and operated inter-regional express service. Governor Jared Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s inter-modal mobility options.  

Avalanche Warnings Issued by CAIC

Remnants of an avalanche reported in the Northern San Juan Mountains on Friday, Feb. 15. Photo: Michael Ackerman/ CAIC

If you ask the locals, it’s seemed a bit more like winter in Saguache Today than in recent years. The San Luis Valley has been seeing its share of moisture this season, although more is needed to catch up with the deep reserves. But high above the valley floor is where field reporters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) have been observing weather conditions and perhaps more importantly for backcountry adventurers, avalanche danger.

And while your own winter concerns may take you no farther than getting your driveway plowed and sidewalk shoveled, it’s important to stay situationally aware of shifting snow conditions in the mountains. Not only can these storms impact traffic with an increase in snow and rock slides blocking highways and high mountain passes. But for those in the tourism industry, it’s imperative to know where to direct visitors venturing into the backcountry to find the latest conditions and tips on how to be prepared. To that end, Saguache today brings readers the following reports issued by the CAIC within the past 24 hours.

At two miles high these wind and snow whipped pines show the “powder” scars of a harsh winter. Photo: Casey Franklin/ CAIC Field Reporter.
CAIC Field Report for Sangre de Cristos Zone

By Mike Cooperstein, CAIC Forecaster (filed at 8 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 17)

Strong winds since Thursday’s storm have moved all available snow to lee-facing slopes. North through east to south-facing slopes near and above treeline are the most dangerous today and should be avoided. We have also received reports of dangerous wind-slabs in open below treeline meadows, so do not blindly jump onto steep slopes in below treeline areas either. 

It may be a few days before we know the extent of the avalanche cycle that this unusual snow event triggered, but from what we can tell it seems like most avalanches broke within or just underneath the storm snow. These avalanches were two to three feet deep and were large and dangerous. As you would expect with a storm with this high of precipitation intensity, we have also received reports of dangerous avalanches breaking near the ground or on mid- to upper-pack layers such as near-surface facets and facets around crust. The crust-facet combos are more prevalent on sunny slopes and could be buried 3 to 5 feet deep at this point. If you trigger an avalanche on one of these persistent weak layers it will most likely be inescapable.

Snow continues today with up to 10 inches possible by Monday afternoon. The new snow will be low density., and will most likely not add enough weight to trigger another natural avalanche cycle. Slopes that continue to receive wind-drifted snow will continue to be dangerous and loading will have to stop before these slopes become more stable.

The bottom line is that this was a very large load in a short period. The general trend of the snowpack is good on a seasonal scale as we are building a deeper and stronger snowpack. For today, very dangerous conditions exist and the snowpack needs some time to adjust to this rapid load.

If you are traveling in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, these mountains received about a foot of snow with strong winds. Although this a lot less snow than the San Juan Mountains, the snowpack is much, much weaker and avalanches on deeper layers or the ground are more likely. This problem in the Sangre de Cristo zone will be slow to change.

CAIC Report for Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 at 6 AM

This morning the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) issued the following Special Avalanche Advisory for the surrounding mountains near Saguache Today:

“A strong storm on Thursday night brought 1 to 2 feet of dense snow with strong winds to the mountains. Avalanche conditions remain dangerous especially in the Central and Southern Mountains. You can trigger avalanches that break in the new and wind drifted snow that will be large enough to bury or kill you. You may even be able to trigger very large very dangerous avalanches that break deeper in the snowpack. If you trigger one of these deeper avalanches it will most likely be inescapable. Consult the Zone Summary for the areas you are planning to travel for specific information and travel advice. Make sure you carry an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe and know how to use all of your gear. You can always limit the chance of being caught in a dangerous avalanche by sticking to lower angle terrain without steeper connected avalanche slopes above you.

February Avalanche Accident Trends

Over the last 10 years, February has proven to be the single most dangerous month for avalanches in Colorado. Over a quarter of the fatal avalanche accidents happened during this month. In the past decade, there have been 15 fatal avalanche accidents in the month of February. Eight of those accidents occurred in the middle of the month, and 4 between Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day. Historically, this weekend has been a dangerous period for avalanche accidents. But avalanche education and safety awareness can help to break that pattern.

Close Calls in January: How It Compares?

As of January 31, the CAIC has documented 57 people caught in 42 separate avalanche events. Seven of the people have been critically (head under the snow) or fully buried, and two have died. Of those, 60% of the involvements occurred in January, including both fatalities. The 56 cumulative involvements this year are far more than recorded for all of 2017-18, 2015-16, and 2014-15. Projections indicate that the 2018-19 winter season will tally the most avalanches on record with the CAIC.

About the CAIC

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office. The program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the Friends of the CAIC (FoCAIC) a 501c3 group. The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property and the enhancement of the state’s economy.

History of The CAIC

Since 1950 avalanches have killed more people in Colorado than any other natural hazard, and in the United States, Colorado accounts for one-third of all avalanche deaths. The Colorado Avalanche Warning Center began issuing public avalanche forecasts in 1973 as part of a research program in the USDA-Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The program moved out of the federal government and into the Colorado state government, becoming part of the Department of Natural Resources in 1983. The CAIC joined the Colorado Department of Transportation’s highway safety program in 1993. The Friends of the CAIC (a 501c3 group) formed in 2007 to promote avalanche safety in Colorado and support the recreation program of the CAIC.

Funding for the CAIC

About half of the CAIC’s funding comes from an intergovernmental agreement with CDOT to provide training and forecasting for highway maintenance operations. As part of the Department of Natural Resources, close to 40% of the Center’s funding come from the Severance Tax Fund. The rest of the funding to run the program comes from the United States Forest Service, local governments, the Friends of the CAIC, and from donations from people like you.