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Winter storm causes chaotic commute for some drivers

Chance of snow and rain lasts until Saturday night
Emergency personnel respond to a truck that went off the road Friday morning near Shalona Hill on U.S. Highway 550.

An overnight snowstorm made for a chaotic commute Friday morning in Southwest Colorado.

La Plata County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Chris Burke said multiple slide-offs, rollovers and minor crashes were reported Friday morning, though no incidents caused significant injuries.

Burke said deputies were stationed in the 27000 block of U.S. Highway 160 in the Grandview area with emergency lights activated on patrol cars, cautioning drivers to slow down.

Burke said one car slid into a guardrail near the new Highway 160 interchange, though no one was injured. And another car rolled over on Colorado Highway 140, west of Durango. A third car went off the road near the top of Shalona Hill on U.S. Highway 550, north of Durango.

Colorado State Patrol is the lead agency on many of the crashes, Burke said. A call to State Patrol Capt. Adrian Driscoll was not immediately returned Friday morning.

“Most of the time, it’s traveling too fast for conditions,” Burke said. “We just want people to be safe, slow down their speed.”

Burke said the Sheriff’s Office asked the Colorado Department of Transportation to start treating the roads in the county with magnesium chloride and sand to improve traction.

CDOT issued a chain and traction law for Coal Bank, Lizard Head, Molas, Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes.

Chains or alternative traction devices are required for all commercial motor vehicles and vans with a capacity for 16 or more people. Passenger vehicles must have snow or mud/snow tires, chains or alternative traction devices, or four-wheel drive.

CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said all mountain passes in Southwest Colorado are impacted by the storm.

“Some of our lower elevations have adverse driving conditions too, like Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs,” she said. “This system looks like it’s sticking around through the weekend, so we urge anyone heading out on the highways to go to COtrip.org to see if there are chain laws in place before traveling.”

Schwantes said people can also click on the webcams to see road conditions and determine if they are comfortable driving those roads. People can also see where CDOT plows are working, by clicking on the “Snowplows” tab on the website, and then selecting individual plows for information about their routes and what direction they are headed.

A Colorado Department of Transportation snowplow clears U.S. Highway 550 north of Durango on Friday morning.

A winter storm moved into the region Thursday afternoon. In Durango, the chance of snow and rain remains possible until Saturday night. The National Weather Service said Durango could receive 1 to 3 inches of snow Saturday morning.

In the high country of the San Juan Mountains, two winter weather advisories have been issued: one until 9 p.m. Friday, and another from 8 a.m. Saturday until 5 a.m. Sunday.

During these times, up to 15 inches of snow could accumulate in the San Juan Mountains, the Weather Service said, with wind gusts possibly as high as 50 mph. Travel is expected to be impacted.

Burke cautioned drivers to give themselves more time to arrive at their destination.

A call to the Durango Police Department was not immediately returned Friday morning.


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