Summit County snowstorm keeps public safety officers busy with crashes
Ryan Summerlin December 4, 2013
This week’s storm has kept public safety officers so busy the Colorado State Patrol does not yet know how many incidents troopers have responded to since Tuesday when the heavy snows first started flying.
The Colorado State Patrol is the primary responding agency for highway crashes and other roadside emergencies, among other duties.
Sgt. Mike Baker, public information officer for the Colorado State Patrol, said Wednesday car crash data won’t be available until Thursday or Friday because troopers around the state have been “running from crash to crash” and have not yet had time to complete all of their incident reports.
Not without stating the obvious, Baker advised residents to stay off the roads if they don’t absolutely have to drive.
“If you are going to be on the roads, slow down,” Baker said. “It’s not a new or novel concept, but people need to understand that the posted speed limits are for dry, normal conditions. Speed is easily the biggest contributor to the accidents we have been responding to the last several days.”
Summit County should experience a short break in the weather, depending on what one might consider a break. According to the National Weather Service in Boulder, the snow should begin to dissipate Thursday, Dec. 5.
However, temperatures are forecasted to fluctuate between single digits and the low teens through the weekend, with Thursday wind chill values estimated to be as low as negative 26 degrees.
Frigid temperatures means little in the way of a break for Colorado Department of Transportation employees tasked with maintaining Colorado’s interstates and national highways.
“Things are getting a little bit better; not great, but improving compared to the last 12 hours,” said CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson on Wednesday. “Everything is open at this point, but there’s still going to be winter driving conditions. We think we’re going to be able to keep the roadways open, but it’s slow going out there.”
As CDOT crews continue to plow snow off the highways, officials are preparing for deicing operations that are sure to come with this week’s sub-freezing temperatures. It is going to be too cold to deice the highways with magnesium chloride, Wilson said, which is what CDOT uses for more typical winter conditions.
“We’re always on snow shift in that part of the state because the storms are so frequent and they’ll continue to be so for the next several days,” Wilson said. “We’re spending a lot of time deicing the roads with solid deicer, like sand, because once this storm passes then the really cold weather is going to move in.”
Although the cold weather is forecasted to move out of the area Friday, it may not be until early next week before Summit County gets a reprieve from extreme winter driving conditions. Another storm front is forecasted to move into the mountains Saturday, bringing with it a 40 percent chance of more snow.
“You’re probably looking at a couple of inches at least on Saturday and Sunday,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina. “That trough should be heading east out of the mountains the latter part of the weekend. Right now, it’s looking like dryer weather beginning the first part of next week.”
Until the next break in the weather, Baker said safety is the key.
In addition to slowing down and giving other motorists more room on the roadways, Baker said it is never a bad idea to keep a basic first aid kit and a safety bag with extra clothes and blankets in the car at all times.
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