Facts about Archuleta County snow removal

Pagosa Country is finally experiencing winter weather and, with it, snow removal.

The following information is from the Archuleta County Road and Bridge Department and includes the county’s snow removal regulations.

The Road and Bridge Department plows approximately 340 miles of roads, which are categorized on a priority basis and the roads with higher priorities are plowed first, such as school bus routes. Remaining roads are plowed based on priority and route efficiencies.

Under normal circumstances, plowing operations begin at 2 a.m. when there is snowfall accumulation in excess of 4 inches, though some lower-priority roads may not be cleared the day of the storm.

Hills are sanded for safety, as required.

On days without snow, crews will clean up and push back snow on routes as needed. All roads may not receive attention on those days.

Weekends and extended-shift plowing may take place under the direction of Road and Bridge Department management.

In extreme circumstances, county roads may not receive same-day snow removal. Top-priority roads will be plowed and kept open on extreme snow days, while lower-priorty roads may not receive attention on those days.

Typically, there are two separate snow removal operations that take place.

The first is during the storm itself and consists of passes with the plows to keep the roads open and includes clearing a path sufficient for two vehicles to pass, and clearing cul-de-sacs enough to allow a vehicle to turn around.

The second operation begins when the storm subsides and consists of widening the traveled portion of the road, pushing the snow back and plowing out wide spots on the roadways. It may be several days between the initial plowing and cleanup.

Unfortunately, each operation may result in a berm of snow across private driveways or encroachments to county roads. While a reasonable effort is made to plow in a manner that will minimize the snow that is left, it is the responsibility of the residents or business to remove the berms.

Kids playing in the snow banks left by snow removal equipment, such as building snow caves and forts, is a safety concern because the machines are large and can move an enormous amount of snow, and may be moving and pushing snow banks back at any time.

Following are some regulations concerning snow removal.

  • Property owners who create hazards in a public right of way — such as plowing snow off private drives, piling construction materials or timber, or placing trash carts — may be subject to prosecution per Colorado Revised Statute 43-5-301.
    A property owner may also be liable for any injury attributable to a hazard or the removal of a hazard he or she has created in a public right of way.
    Vehicle owners and property owners who leave vehicles in a public right of way are likewise subject to prosecution and vehicle impoundment.
  • Roadside parking is prohibited along all county roads and within any county road right of way.
    Roadside parking inhibits thorough plowing and vehicles will be towed without notice.
  • Per state statute, it is unlawful for any person to deposit snow plowed from a private driveway, road or any other source onto any county road or right of way.
    Homeowners and contractors are advised to not push snow across a county road at any time.
  • Trash carts should be placed in the driveway at a minimum of 5 feet behind the front of the snow berm to minimize the possibility of it being knocked over. Trash carts that are knocked over are not the responsibility of the county.

Snow driving safety

Following are tips to increase the safety of driving near snow removal equipment.

  • Slow down and use caution around snow removal equipment.
  • Safe following distances behind the plow will help to avoid being hit by flying snow and sanding material.
  • Stay out of the snow removal vehicles’ blind spots.
  • Turn your headlights on.
  • Flashing blue lights on a truck indicate an emergency vehicle and it is illegal to pass.

Helpful phone numbers

Following are numbers that may prove to be helpful in times of inclement weather.

  • Emergencies: 911.
  • Archuleta County Road and Bridge: 264-5660.
  • Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office: 264-8430.
  • Archuleta County Combined Dispatch: 731-2160.
  • Road and weather information: 264-5555.
This story was posted on January 13, 2015.

One Response to Facts about Archuleta County snow removal

  1. ajpagosa

    January 14, 2015 at 5:22 am

    Generally pleased with the promptness of plowing in my area. However I wish something could be done about the berms the plows leave across driveways, esp on gravel roads. You try to blow that out yourself and often it is full of rocks or gravel, and you bust a shear pin (if you’re “lucky”) or worse. Often you have to hand shovel it out if it is full of rocks.

    Other areas that see a lot of snow use something called a “snow gate” on the right side of the plow blade. This is a hydraulically operated gate that the operator drops down and blocks the blade’s output temporarily, preventing snow from filling up a driveway or cross street. They are not very expensive, very simple to install and maintain. Google “snow gate”, maybe the county could get one and try it out. Craig Manufacturing makes one, Henke makes one, etc.

    It sure would make a lot of people’s lives during snow events safer and easier. It might also cut down on county worker time, because you don’t need to go back and clear that out in the areas county is responsible for, or double plow across intersections.

    Thanks to Gale T. for making me aware of this, they are used in Canada and Alaska all the time.