Winter: Adverse conditions create challenges

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    By Terri Lynn Oldham House

    Storms over the past couple of weeks have brought back memories of the winters that longtime Pagosans experienced back in “the good old days.”

    There was even enough snow for school administrators to cancel classes for one day, which left many locals saying, “They used to never cancel school when I went to school here.”

    The town took its regular all-hands-on-deck approach as crews worked to clear snow. County and Colorado Department of Transportation crews were out well before daylight working to open our roadways. 

    Avalanche control is now called “winter road maintenance” up on Wolf Creek Pass and it was closed two times in a week to shoot down the avalanches. The ski area reported 51 inches of snow in seven days.

    Family, friends and neighbors helped each other remove snow from sidewalks, decks and driveways throughout the community. If you haven’t done it already, be sure to find your fire hydrant and shovel it out in case of fire.

    There’s nothing like discovering that neighbors and friends have already plowed your roadway for you. That’s how things come together in Pagosa Country. 

    Those of us who have lived here for some time are accustomed to these bigger snowstorms, but we don’t always stop and think about our snowplow drivers, utility crews and emergency services personnel who step up to the challenge of opening roadways, restoring services and keeping us safe regardless of the weather or the time of the year. 

    The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management (OEM) along with Wolf Creek Ski Area’s ski patrol successfully found and rescued two snowmobilers on Wolf Creek Pass. Those snowmobilers spent the night in the storm. 

    The OEM also assisted in accessing an elderly patient with a medical emergency using a UTV with tracks when the road to the home hadn’t been plowed. 

    We are blessed here in Archuleta County to have the staff, volunteers and equipment needed to help in a variety of weather conditions.

    We even saw a fine example of law enforcement ably recovering a stolen town vehicle within a short time of Archuleta County Combined Dispatch announcing details of the theft.

    A sincere thank you to everyone for a job well done.

    This week’s adverse weather conditions also kept law enforcement and emergency crews responding across the region to numerous accidents. Towing companies were on call to pull unlucky people out of ditches. Multiple cars slid off the road, rolled and even rear-ended road-clearing equipment.

    We haven’t even made it to the snowiest month of the year.

    Is your vehicle ready for winter? Have you made certain you have adequate tread on your tires? Have you checked your antifreeze levels? Do your defroster and rear window defogger work? A flashlight and snow scraper are a must, and snowboots and a blanket should be in your auto, too. You might even consider putting a snow shovel in the car. Some people swear by having kitty litter or sand in their vehicle to give the vehicle traction. 

    Winter can bring a combination of slush, ice, snow and lower temperatures to our already-shorter daylight hours, creating hazardous driving conditions. 

    Besides driving too fast for weather conditions, some of the leading causes of fatal roadway crashes are failure to keep in the proper lane or running off the road, driving under the influence, failure to yield the right of way, distracted driving, operating in an erratic or reckless manner, and failure to obey traffic signs and signals.

    Wintertime is time to slow down and allow for extra time to get to your destination. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. 

    If you have to be out when the road conditions are less than desirable, we encourage you to slow down and, as always, put your seat belt on.

    If you don’t have to be out, stay home and keep off the roads. The life you save just might be your own.