Pagosa Country is finally experiencing winter weather and, with it, snow removal.
Each year, the town and county issue snow removal information regulations and guidelines to ensure public safety during snow-removal operations.
Town of Pagosa Springs
The Town of Pagosa Springs provides proper snow removal etiquette and responsibilities to its residents and business owners on its official website.
According to the website, the town plows 30 miles of streets and roads and asks for everyone’s cooperation so proper and efficient street maintenance can be accomplished.
“Our goal is to provide snow removal in a timely manner,” the site states, “to facilitate safe traffic flow for drivers and pedestrians.”
The time required to clear snow and ice from roads will vary depending on storm intensity and duration, the water content of the snow, temperature, traffic conditions and time of day. As a result, the town may not be able to plow or sand roads at the same time each day, or even on the same day of the storm.
There are several things the town would like residents, business owners, and snow plowing contractors to remember.
First, it is unlawful to push or throw snow onto or across roadways or onto any public or private property or right of way other than your own. Your snow must be disposed of on your own property.
Second, it is the property/business owner’s responsibility to provide snow and ice removal on sidewalks abutting their property by noon the day following the storm. However, ice melt should not be used. Sidewalks damaged by ice melt are the responsibility of the adjoining owner for repair/replacement.
Third, trash carts should be placed in the driveway, a minimum of 5 feet behind the front of the snow berm to minimize the possibility of being knocked over. Residents are responsible for any trash carts that are knocked over.
Finally, though reasonable efforts are made to minimize the berm left behind from street plowing, it is the resident’s responsibility to remove said snow berm. However, if you have an emergency, call 911.
There are several things town residents can do to help with the snow removal effort.
For example, do not park along snow routes. Parking problems are compounded by winter snow and a little extra care should be taken to avoid them. Parking along U.S. 160 between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. is prohibited, including Pagosa Street through downtown.
In addition, do not attempt to stop a snowplow or obstruct its path. Plows must maintain speed for maximum efficiency.
Also, when approaching a plow from the rear, maintain a minimum distance of 200 feet to allow for scattering of sand and abrupt movements and use extreme caution when passing snow removal equipment. Equipment operators often work long hours under trying conditions, and the town asks that drivers be courteous and friendly around them.
“Help them help you,” the website asks. “Be patient. Be assured that during a snowstorm, every reasonable effort will be made to keep roadways open. All available personnel will be on the road during major snow storms.”
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-priority 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.