A winter storm that hit Cortez over the weekend prompted the city to send out snow trucks on Tuesday morning for the first time this winter.
A storm warning was issued for Montezuma County on Saturday, and ended at 6 a.m. Tuesday, after dropping about 2 inches of snow in the Cortez area. Dona Thompson, the administrative assistant for the Public Works Department, said the city’s trucks went out at about 4 a.m. Tuesday to sand the main thoroughfares and plow where necessary. Most city roads were clear by the time residents began driving to work.
“We hit it hard right away,” Thompson said.
As always, the trucks started by clearing Main Street, then moved on to Third and Seventh streets and Montezuma Avenue. They were asked to help the Colorado Department of Transportation with snow removal on Broadway south of the Johnson Building, where some of the worst snow and ice had accumulated. But as the sun came out Tuesday, and the Weather Channel forecast clear weather for the rest of the week, Thompson didn’t believe the trucks would need to go out again for several days at least.
The city of Cortez has about six plows total, and when necessary they also operate a 1,000-gallon brine truck for de-icing, a motor grader and two front-end loaders. These vehicles plow and de-ice the roads whenever more than 2 inches of snow accumulates within the city limits, usually starting early in the morning in order to beat traffic.
Main Street, Mildred Road and Empire Street are always the first priority for plowing, followed by school bus routes, the downtown area and then residential areas. Sometimes they also help CDOT with highways that run through Cortez, like U.S. 491. Thompson said the city usually doesn’t plow side streets because of the risk of blocking driveways, though they made an exception a few times last winter.
Cortez got more snow than usual from late 2015 to early 2016, along with some very low temperatures that led to icy roads. Thompson called last winter “horrendous,” but she isn’t concerned about the city’s ability to handle snow this year, even if it falls heavily again.
“We’re always prepared,” she said. “We put everything we have out there, every time.”
She did note that Public Works employees can’t plow all day, every day, so it might take a while for some snow to get cleared, especially when it falls during the day.
According to the National Weather Service, skies will be clear in Cortez through Saturday, with temperatures hovering around freezing during the day and dropping into the single digits at night.