Grand Valley residents prepare for winter season
The end of Daylight Savings Time on Nov. 2 marked notable changes in Colorado — shorter days, cold temperatures and often snowy roads.
To prepare for Colorado’s sometimes dangerous winter weather, National Weather Service’s Grand Junction offers these tips:
1. TRAVEL SAFELY
Skiers and snowboarders often venture to Powderhorn Mountain Resort and beyond to find fresh powder. Most travel requires a vehicle, so having a well-equipped car with an emergency kit is essential.
National Weather Service’s breakdown for a prepared car includes having adequate tires, tire chains, a tow rope, sand or cat litter (for traction), a shovel, a tool kit, a windshield scraper and brush, battery cables, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, blankets and more.
“One of the key things people should do on the roads with inclement weather is slow down,” said Jim Pringle, National Weather Service’s warning coordination meteorologist.
Even with the necessary equipment, sometimes it’s better to avoid roads all together during snowy weather. Stay informed with Colorado’s ever-changing road and weather conditions by visiting http://www.cotrip.org and http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gjt.
According to the National Weather Service, if a driver becomes stranded, it’s important to stay in the car and don’t panic. Run the motor for 10 minutes at a time to maintain warmth. Be sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow for proper ventilation and crack windows for air flow. Be sure to keep toes, fingers, legs and arms moving to maintain blood circulation.
Also be aware of ice — roads may look clear, but a thin layer of ice, commonly known as “black ice” may be present.
2. KNOW THE WARNINGS
To better understand National Weather Service advisories, it’s important to know lingo used statewide.
In Colorado’s Grand Valley, the most common of alert is “the winter weather advisory,” Pringle said, which are issued for potentially hazardous conditions, including snowfall — five to 12 inches per storm in the mountains or three to six inches per storm at lower elevations.
According to the National Weather Service, other alerts to watch for include a winter storm watch — “when hazardous winter storm conditions are possible within the next three to four days, but timing, intensity and occurrence may still be unknown;” a winter storm warning — “for the occurrence of heavy snow or any combination of heavy snow and other events;” and a blizzard warning — “when sustained winds of 35 miles per hour or more occur with an excessive amount of falling snow and visibility less than a quarter mile.”
Heavy snow is defined by the National Weather Service as 12 or more inches per storm event in the mountains and six or more inches at lower elevations.
3. UNDERSTAND AVALANCHE RISKS
When enjoying Colorado’s high country — either skiing or snowboarding — consider the ever-present risks associated with back-country recreation and avalanches.
“Thousands of avalanches occur each winter in the mountains of Colorado,” the National Weather Service said in a news release. “On average, six people die in avalanches in Colorado.”
Avalanches often occur during or just after snowstorms and on a slope of 30 to 45 degrees, the news release continued. Waiting 36 hours after a big snowstorm will allow the snow to become more stable.
Back-country recreators should always check current avalanche forecasts, travel with a friend, cross an avalanche prone area one at a time, and carry an avalanche rescue kit. The kit includes an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe pole.
Though Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s in-bounds ski area is not prone to avalanches, it’s important that all skiers and snowboarders understand risks, said Dave Smith, Powderhorn’s spokesman.
“It’s good to know some of the warning signs from the weather,” he said. “Be prepared and be knowledgeable.”
While on the slopes, it’s suggested to stay away from avalanche chutes and favor dense tree areas, valleys and gentle slopes to minimize avalanche risks.
To check the avalanche forecast, call 303-499-9650 or visit http://www.avalanche.state.co.us.
For more information about weather preparedness, visit http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gjt.
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