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Winter Storm Ajax Makes for Tougher Driving in Colorado

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Driving in wintry weather can cause car accidents.

Snowy roads in Colorado.

On Tuesday, Winter Storm Ajax forced the closure of almost 150 miles of Interstate 70, from just west of Woodland, Kansas, through the outside of the Denver metro area’s eastern edge, according to The Weather Channel (TWC). According to the Colorado State Patrol, Ajax, a blizzard with heavy snow and high winds, caused between 100 and 150 vehicles to be stranded on Tuesday on I-25 south of Castle Rock, Colorado. The snarled traffic included two semi-trucks which had jack-knifed on the Interstate.

Deb Stanley wrote on Tuesday afternoon for The Denver Channel that CDOT closed the following highways because of blowing snow and white-out conditions:

  • I-70, both directions, E-470 to Limon (MM 262-292)
  • I-25 NB Raton Pass to Trinidad (MM 1-11)
  • I-25 SB Walsenburg to New Mexico (MM 1-52)
  • U.S. 24 Colorado Springs to Limon (MM 314-376)
  • CO 86 Kiowa to I-70 (MM 23-59)
  • CO 71 Last Chance to Limon (MM 138-103)
  • US 40 Limon to Kit Carson (MM 387-444)

Accidents and Closings

The Aspen Times staff wrote that snow on Monday in Aspen caused a rollover accident near Watson Divide and sent at least half a dozen cars off the road before noon; there were no injuries reported. The wintry weather slowed up valley commuting in that city because of minor accidents and because CDOT had to plow Highway 82. Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff Alex Burchetta recommended that vehicles be equipped with adequate winter tires and four-wheel drive.

Jakob Rodgers wrote for The Gazette that many schools and businesses in the Pikes Peak region were closed Tuesday due to the weather. Nathan Van Dyne reported for the same newspaper that drivers need to be on the lookout not only for ice and snow, but for animals: Colorado Springs police tweeted  Tuesday morning that a small bear was spotted trying to cross busy Interstate 25 just south of mile marker 145. However it appeared that the bear safely escaped the area. (In comments to that article, people punned that the animal had “just bearly” made it across.)

Elizabeth Hernandez wrote for The Denver Post that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office tweeted, “Do not go out and drive unless absolutely necessary.” Of 467 people who voted in the Post’s online snow poll, 23.34% of respondents reported between 4 to 8 inches of snow in their area, whereas 11.57% had more than 12 inches, and 11.36% saw between 9 and 12 inches of the white stuff outside. Of those who took the online poll, 18.31% said it did not snow where they are.

Safe Winter Driving

Finally, Cheryl Lock wrote for 5820, The Denver Magazine, about how to prepare your vehicle for driving in wintry conditions. She said experts recommend the following:

  • Because cold weather is hard on engines, “Check your radiator coolant level, and make sure your oil viscosity is correct for the temperature range where you live.” You can find the correct viscosity in your vehicle’s manual, and make sure to change the oil and filter, according to Richard Reina, training director with
  • Keep your windshield washer reservoir filled with a 100 percent solution of washer solvent — and have a spare bottle handy, along with an extra set of wiper blades. Visibility in slush and snow is of utmost importance. Also make sure to replace headlight and tail-light bulbs that have gone out.
  • Carry a “Winter Apocalypse” kit for unforseen emergencies. It should include a blanket, a flashlight and spare batteries, a portable shovel, and nonperishable snacks. Cliff Wood, executive vice president of Carmax stores, recommends adding a few other necessities, too, such as jumper cables, flares or hazard triangles, cat litter for traction, bottled water, and a cell phone car charger,
  • It is best to have proper winter tires, made with a special rubber material that provides better traction on snowy, slushy roads. Having four winter tires optimizes your steering, handling, and braking under all conditions.

This blog wrote about winter tires recently. Lock also writes to make sure you have a spare tire, along with tire changing tools. Chains, studs, and tire “socks” are also very useful in winter weather. Brad Pellman, of Boulder-based Pellman’s Automotive, told Lock that drivers need to make sure their cars are prepared for snow well before the bad weather arrives.

Image by minka6, used under a Creative Commons license.


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