Let it snow: Caution, preparedness urged with ongoing storms


By Randi Pierce

Staff Writer

It’s official: The snow dances are working.

While no official totals are kept for Pagosa Country, anecdotal reports in the area range from nearly 90 inches of snow this season west of Pagosa Springs to nearly 110 inches in the Chromo area.

Wolf Creek Ski Area was reporting 304 inches so far as of Wednesday morning, with 29 inches of that coming in the latest storm and 58 coming within seven days.

And more is falling.

A winter storm warning and a hazardous weather outlook for the current storm were issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) Wednesday, with the warning in effect until 5 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 22.

The outlook states, “Wintry weather will continue through Friday as a large Pacific storm passes through the area.”

The warning indicates that 10 to 16 inches of snow is expected from the storm with locally higher amounts possible.

Pagosa Weather, a Facebook page run by local meteorologist Todd Cook, however, is predicting 1 to 2 feet for the valley, with higher amounts possible, and 2 to 4 feet for Wolf Creek and the surrounding mountains.

“Friday night through Sunday night will be drier,” the outlook states.

As of Wednesday, the NWS was predicting sunny skies for the weekend for both Pagosa Springs and Wolf Creek Pass.

But, while the storms have brought beneficial moisture, as well as good powder for snow enthusiasts, the storms have not been not without issues, some of which remain.

Effects of the series of storms included closed schools and businesses, accidents, power outages and more.

The power outages Feb. 14 and 15, at their peak, affected 25,000 people in Archuleta and La Plata counties.

Those outages, La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) reported, were caused by wet, heavy snow.

“A significant issue during this storm was tree-related damage — snow weighted on branches or mature trees, bringing them down and into the lines,” an LPEA press release states, also noting, “LPEA has a proactive tree trimming program to help mitigate this type of outage occurrence, but LPEA crews will not encroach on private property or trim any trees outside of the public right-of-way without property owner permission. LPEA Operations requests property owners to think about their trees that might impact power lines, and call LPEA to schedule trimming of so-called ‘hazard’ trees. LPEA contracts professional arborists for the tree trimming effort.”

Power outages and flickers also caused damage to equipment at Pagosa Springs Medical Center, CEO Dr. Rhonda Webb indicated.

Snow continues to affect area roads and intersections, with both the NWS and local officials warning of potential hazards.

“Travel will become very difficult to impossible at times. These hazardous road conditions could impact the morning or evening commute. Power lines could be impacted by the persistent moderate to heavy snowfall rates,” the warning states.

Town of Pagosa Springs Manager Andrea Phillips cautioned drivers that with the series of storms, snow removal personnel are running out of areas to store the snow in town. The snow, then, is piling up at intersections and decreasing visibility.

She urged drivers to pull out of such intersections carefully.

LPEA is also urging preparedness, even if travel is not planned.

LPEA offered the following preparedness tips: charge cellphones, have batteries for lamps and flashlights, and have gasoline for snow blowers and back-up generators.

Driving safety around snow equipment

Slow down and use caution around snow-removal equipment.

Follow at a safe distance to avoid flying snow and sanding material.

Stay out of the equipment’s blind spots.

Turn your headlights on.

Flashing blue lights on a truck indicate an emergency vehicle and it is illegal to pass.

Use extreme caution when passing snow-removal equipment. Before you pass, honk your horn and flash your lights to alert the operator you intend to pass.

Equipment operators often work long hours under trying conditions; be a courteous and friendly driver around them.

Helpful phone numbers

Emergencies: 911.

Archuleta County Combined Dispatch: 731-2160.

Archuleta County Road and Bridge: 264-5660.

Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office: 264-8430.

Pagosa Springs Police Department: 264-4151, ext. 228.

Town of Pagosa Springs: 264-4151.

Road and weather information: 264-5555.

LPEA Dispatch: 247-5786.