GCSO: Be prepared for winter storm travel

Beware of winter weather, stay out of high country back roads if possible

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO. – The weather in Colorado can change rapidly and is often unforgiving. High country travel is always challenging, but for the unprepared, it can be disastrous. Recently, sheriff’s deputies were called to assist two motorists on U.S. Forest Service roads who had gotten their vehicles stuck. Four young children were also rescued. The children were not dressed for winter weather and did not have appropriate clothes for hiking through snow in freezing conditions. Fortunately, they were able to call out for help; the deputies were able to reach them before disaster struck.

With the incoming storm warnings for the weekend as well as surprise winter and spring storms that can show up suddenly and unexpectedly over the next several weeks, your best bet is to stay out of the high country.

If you decide to travel to the high country, despite warnings, understand that you are putting yourself, your friends and your families at risk.

If you are determined to go anyway, there are some basic safety tips and guidelines to follow when traveling the roads less traveled:

  1. Let someone know where you are going, when you will get to you destination or return back home. If no one knows to look for you, it may be several hours or days before someone misses you or drives by and can offer assistance.
  2. Cell phones do not always work in the backcountry where signals are poor or non-existent, you may not be able to use your phone to communicate with the outside world.
  3. Make sure your vehicle is equipped to travel and navigate on roads that are not regularly maintained.
  4. Have a full tank of gas. In extreme weather, if you are stuck somewhere you will be able to stay warm and survive until help can arrive.
  5. Remember, an idling car that is stuck in a snowbank can build up carbon monoxide (a colorless and odorless poisonous gas) within the vehicle if the exhaust system has been compromised or is blocked by snow, mud or other debris. Be alert if you or your passengers start to feel groggy or sleepy.
  6. In some cases, it could take hours to reach you, even if your approximate location is known, depending on what is going on with the weather, the time of day or night and your location.
  7. Extra clothes, coats and blankets that are dry as well as a working flashlight, a candle, water and energy bars are an absolute necessity to have in the vehicle and readily accessible. They could mean the difference in getting through a night of sub-zero temperatures or not.
  8. Stay with your vehicle if possible, in the very least it will provide shelter and is more easily found should rescuers need to be sent out.
  9. In the end, please understand that we rescue people and not vehicles.  It is up to the person that put the vehicle in a bad situation to get it out. We do not pull out vehicles nor will most towing companies travel to high country or back country roads during the winter months or in climate weather to effect a vehicle rescue.

Common sense is the rule of the day, if you are not sure of what you are doing, where you are going and you have not told anyone know of your plans, then do not go. Colorado is a beautiful state but seasonal changes in the weather can quickly spell disaster. Even experienced outdoors people have been caught off guard. Do not allow yourself or your friends and family to be the next victims of an avoidable situation.

GCSO: Be prepared for winter storm travel