La Plata Office of Emergency Management Offers Winter Storm Information and Safety Tips

I wanted to pass along the following release from La Plata County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) re: the winter storm response.  For additional information, please call Joanne Spina at (970) 759-1102.  Too, you can keep up with the latest developments on the La Plata OEM's Twitter feed at or online at

The La Plata County Office of Emergency Management has been monitoring storm activities throughout the week and has had continuous communication with fire departments, road crews, National Weather Service and volunteer agencies in order to maintain situational awareness for La Plata County.

A series of winter storms has impacted La Plata County over the past week. The heaviest storm began dropping snow early Thursday morning with increasing intensity throughout Friday night. Snow measurements in the Durango area totaled 36 inches and upwards of 52 inches in the surrounding hills.

This storm system produced a rapid accumulation of snow creating an extremely unstable snow pack. Doyle Villers, La Plata County Road and Bridge Superintendent, reported that snow removal crews have responded to numerous avalanches and slides on several County Roads even in areas that seldom or rarely see slides. Portions of County Roads 500, 501 and 243 were closed for much of Thursday night while road crews dealt with snow depths of 8 to 16 feet at the biggest of the slides. Local resident Justin McCarty assisted with removal of a snow slide that was 500 feet wide and 8 feet deep on CR 500 near the Witts End Ranch north of Vallecito.

Heavy snow and poor visibility slowed the County’s snow removal efforts throughout the night and prevented plows from maintaining the desired full width on some County Roads. Some roads have been reduced to single lanes of travel. Butck Knowlton  Director of the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management, advises residents to limit travel as much as possible. “Those who must travel, should exercise caution around snow removal equipment and avoid parking in the roadway, which creates an obstruction for snow plows,” advised Knowlton. Residents are also reminded not to push snow into roadways or place trash cans in the roadway, as this creates a hazard for snow plows and slows the snow removal process.

Winter Driving Tips

Motorists are encouraged to take the following precautions:

·           Allow more travel time on winter roads.

·           Reduce your speed.  Poor visibility, icy corners and heavy traffic may make it necessary for drivers to slow down. Watch for cars entering county roads from private driveways where snow obstructs visibility.

·           Prepare your vehicle properly, especially for mountain driving. Windshield wipers and tires should be checked and replaced as necessary.  Inadequate visibility and poor traction are the cause of many accidents.

·           Take a little extra time to clear the snow from your windshield, all windows, and lights before driving.  Make it easy for yourself to see and for others to see you.

·           For updated Southwest Colorado highway conditions, call the Colorado State Patrol/State line at 877-315-7623 or visit

·           Be a patient and courteous driver.

Snow Load on Roofs

The volume of snow and its weight are also creating serious concerns for the structures throughout La Plata County. Flat and low pitched roofs near Durango may currently have 33.8 pounds per square foot of snow, and we are expected to receive more snow through tomorrow. This weight and accumulation on flat and low pitched roofs approaches the design load capability of newer homes and buildings.

Property owners should consider removal of snow from:

·         Flat and low pitched roofs
·         Lower roof levels that receive snow and ice accumulation from higher roofs
·         Roofs with long unsupported spans
·         Older mobile or manufactured homes
·         Newer mobile homes if rated with 30 pound per square foot roof systems
·         Areas where large snow slabs may impact gas meters and electrical boxes

When shoveling roofs and plowing drives be sure not to cover gas meters, gas piping, electrical meters, panels or pedestals. Flag your propane tanks and utility equipment to prevent being damaged by snow removal equipment.

Personal Safety

Personal safety should be of paramount importance at all times.  Shoveling snow is a strenuous task, so residents are encouraged to use common sense and pace themselves appropriately.. Property owners should not attempt to shovel their roofs without taking proper safety precautions. And of course, motorists who must travel should keep a few emergency provisions in the trunk of your car, such as a small shovel, flashlight, blanket or sleeping bag and snacks.