Drivers beware: Dangerous weather prompts road warning from CDOT

DENVER -- The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is warning drivers about the potential for flash freezing and dangerous conditions tonight as single digit and negative single digit temperatures move into Colorado.

This is going to be a significant snow event with significant impacts," CDOT's executive director Shailen Bhatt said.

This storm has the "potential to start as rain or freezing rain, then turn over to snow," Bhatt explained. "As we drop to a low in the single digits or even negative single digits, any surfaces that are wet will ice over."

Bhatt said even with more than 900 plows across the state putting down various anti-icing products, "all of these products will be challenged to deal with the temperature change coming."

Already on Friday, Interstate 70 was closed at the summit of Vail Pass for about 45 minutes at 10:30 a.m. for multiple crashes and spin-outs.

CDOT called it a safety closure.

"They are conducted to protect life and property or implemented to reduce the probability of incidences occurring," CDOT officials said.

Officials said during a safety closure crews close down the road, get all the vehicles moved, then get their trucks and plows into the area to make conditions the best they can.

Bhatt said people heading to the mountains on Friday need to leave early.

"Once you get into the post-rush hour, it's going to deteriorate quickly and be very dangerous," Bhatt said.

Bhatt warned drivers to make sure their vehicles are prepared for conditions.

"It's going to be hard for us to get to folks who are spun out," Bhatt said.

A winter storm warning has been issued for the mountains and we are expecting snow in the Denver metro area. Stay up to date on the changing forecast with your Denver7 forecast online and on our app.

Here's what CDOT is expecting in each of its regions:

Front Range/Metro Denver (Region 1)

This storm is predicted to have a high water content and conditions west of I-25 could see heavy snow, slush and icy conditions while east of I-25 may have snowfall with less moisture content.  Heavy winds and low visibility should be expected throughout the state.

Southeast (Region 2)

High winds are expected throughout the southeast region of the state during this storm. The Colorado State Patrol has issued a high profile vehicle restriction for I-25 north and southbound from the Colorado, New Mexico state line to Pueblo, due to numerous vehicles being blown over by high winds.

Northwest (Region 3)

Elevations over 8000 feet and mountain passes are expected to see anywhere from 1-2 feet of snow. Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) forecasters are calling for increased avalanche danger in the high country.  CO 65/Grand Mesa is currently closed for avalanche mitigation. Lower elevations are experiencing rain that will rapidly turn to snow as temperatures are expected to drop significantly. Motorists should slow down and drive for the conditions as flash freeze/black ice is expected.

Northeast (Region 4)

The moisture content of the snow on the Eastern Plains is expected to be less than in the mountains, so there is concern about blowing snow on those highways.

Southwest (Region 5)

Wet, heavy snow accumulations started early Friday morning at elevations as low as 6500 ft. Snowfall will continue with a winter storm warning in effect for Friday into Saturday. Snow and wind will create hazardous driving conditions throughout the area, especially in the mountains. Avalanche mitigation will take place, causing intermittent closures, along several mountain passes in the San Juan Range (US 550 and US 160 corridors).

In addition to safety closures, CDOT can enact two laws.

  • Traction Law — Motorists will need snow tires, tires with mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel drive vehicle — all tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.
  • Passenger Vehicle Chain Law — Every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device.

See the latest traffic incidents, delays and construction projects on our Denver7 traffic page.

You can track CDOT's snowplows live on CDOT's website.

Find out how much snow is coming your way with our SnowCast app.

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