If you’re new to Colorado, news of our impending snowstorm might have you asking yourself a few questions.
Questions like …
It was almost 70 degrees the other day. Now, a snowstorm. Is this normal?
Should I head to the grocery store to panic shop?
Will I be able to get out of my house?
First things first: Yes, this is normal. Colorado has a bit of a reputation for having warm, sunny temperatures one week and a heavy, wet snowstorm the next this time of year. In Colorado, significant snowstorms tend to happen in March and April (we’re looking at you, blizzard of March 2003).
So, if you’re not from around here, here’s some guidance on what to expect and how to prepare:
Should I head to the store to panic shop before the snowstorm?
No, you don’t need to rush out and buy six cases of canned beans and granola bars, but you should make sure you have enough food and water to last several days in case the roads are impassable or you’re unable to get to a store.
The Red Cross recommends at least a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day), as well as a three-day supply of nonperishable, easy-to-prepare food. (And remember, if you can’t drive around town, your local food-delivery driver might not be able to either.)
Will I be able to drive in this snow?
Whenever there’s a snowstorm, it’s always best to avoid driving if you can because of the hazardous driving conditions.
Ahead of this weekend’s predicted storm, the Colorado Department of Transportation in a news release Wednesday asked residents to avoid travel, citing the predicted heavy accumulations.
If you must travel, Fort Collins and CDOT crews will be out plowing major local and state roadways.
During snowstorms, Fort Collins has 24 snowplows and focuses on main roadways first — think College Avenue, Prospect Road, Harmony Road and Lemay Avenue. After those, other high-traffic streets such as Remington Street and Swallow Road get plowed.
Residential streets are only plowed “when snow accumulation completely blocks traffic movement,” according to the city of Fort Collins website.
Beyond Fort Collins, CDOT in its news release said it will be clearing I-25, I-70 and other impacted interstates. CDOT says it will not plow secondary routes until the worst of the storm passes.
I really do have to drive somewhere. What should I know?
You should have an emergency kit in your car.
According to Ready.gov, the U.S. government’s emergency preparedness website, the kit should include jumper cables, sand, a flashlight, warm clothes, blankets, bottled water and nonperishable snacks. Also, keep your gas tank full.
In addition, if you’re heading out amid a snowstorm, the Red Cross suggests letting someone know where you’re going, what route you’re taking and when you expect to arrive, in case you become stuck somewhere.
When it comes to driving in the snow, here are some tips from CDOT:
- Take extra time to clear your car of snow and ice before leaving.
- There are three actions you do most when you drive: accelerate, turn, and brake. In winter weather, you should only do one of those actions at a time. Attempting more than one of these actions at once can cause slide-outs, spin-outs and other harmful scenarios.
- When traveling downhill, if possible, switch to a lower gear and gently tap your brakes.
- Keep momentum when traveling uphill to avoid getting stuck.
- When driving at night, keep your headlight beams low. High beams can amplify the appearance of snow and lead to decreased visibility.
- Slow down — driving too fast for conditions causes most crashes.
- If you encounter a multi-car collision, stay in your car. You’re safer in your car than outside of it.
- Signage is your best friend — look ahead and plan ahead for abrupt turns or stops.
- Always wear your seat belt.
- Never drive impaired.
Anything else I should be thinking about?
The Red Cross has a few other helpful reminders as you weather this and future storms in Colorado:
- Listen to a local station on battery-powered radio or television or to NOAA Weather Radio for updated emergency information.
- Bring your companion animals inside before the storm begins. Move other animals to sheltered areas with a supply of non-frozen water.
- Check on relatives, neighbors and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.
So stay safe out there, and don’t worry … you live in Colorado now, so it’ll be sunny and warm again in no time.
Holly Engelman is the planner/programmer at the Coloradoan. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.