End to extreme cold in sight | SummitDaily.com

End to extreme cold in sight

An arctic blast that moved in Monday may finally be on its way out, after causing problems across the county from chairlift delays to a tractor fire at the Summit County landfill.

The fire broke out Wednesday morning as crews used a pan filled with lit coal to heat the engine of a tractor at the landfill – just one of several problems resulting from temperatures as low as -40 degrees in parts of Summit County Wednesday morning. No one was hurt in the fire.

After two days of frigid weather, with lows falling to the negative 30s throughout much of the county Wednesday morning, temperatures are expected to climb back into the 20s Thursday.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve seen our coldest temperatures of the year,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Kyle Fredin.

It will continue to feel chilly outside Thursday with windchill values as low as -16 degrees. Friday is expected to bring highs near 30 and the next chance for snow in the evening and into Saturday morning. The snow could pick up again early next week, forecasters say.

Both the schools and the ski lifts got a slow start Wednesday morning due to the extreme cold overnight.

Summit schools were delayed by two hours and students advised to bundle up for the walk to school.

At Breckenridge Ski Resort, the Quicksilver lift opened 30 minutes late Wednesday thanks to mechanical problems caused by the cold. A few local ski resorts had to contend with lethargic lifts Wednesday morning, though most were up and running on time.

“It just took a little while for those lifts to get warmed up this morning,” Copper Mountain spokesman David Roth said Wednesday.

Temperatures are expected to drop into the -20 degree range overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning.

The cold weather should not keep de-icers from working on the roads, but Colorado Department of Transportation officials said the lower the temperature, the harder it is to keep roads dry.

Officials encouraged drivers to be careful, particularly at the end of the day when the temperature can drop quickly.

“I would emphasize the need for drivers to remain extra cautious, especially on bridges, overpasses and ramps, where road surfaces can still ice up quickly,” CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson stated in an e-mail.

For all the trouble it caused humans, the freezing weather over the last few days is unlikely to have troubled the bark beetles much at all, according to experts from the U.S. Forest Service. While temperatures below -35 degrees under the tree bark can be fatal to the pests, they are able to withstand short-lived cold spells such as this one, particularly in the middle of winter when they are dormant.

This week’s cold front began as an air mass over northern Canada and the Arctic circle that moved down over the Rockies. Fredin said it is a weather pattern that happens from time to time.

The lowest temperature on record in Colorado is -61 degrees, recorded Feb. 1, 1985 in the northwestern town of Maybell.

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