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Temps plunge below zero after first major storm passes through Colorado Springs

January 5, 2017 Updated: January 6, 2017 at 6:43 am
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photo - Snow removal equipment in action at the Colorado Springs Airport on Thursday, January 5, 2017. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette
Snow removal equipment in action at the Colorado Springs Airport on Thursday, January 5, 2017. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette 

Click here  for the latest delays and closings for schools and military Friday in the Colorado Springs area. Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base are among the military installations with delayed starts.

Colorado Springs came through its first major winter storm with few disruptions, though area school districts were taking no chances, canceling classes before the first flurry had fallen late Wednesday night.

Military bases were on a two-hour delay, but otherwise businesses and government offices were open Thursday as snowplows cleared streets and most flights were able to arrive and depart at the Colorado Springs Airport.

The forecast was for 4 and 7 inches of snow, and, according to the National Weather Service, the accumulation in Colorado Springs was a little on the low side at 2.5 to 5 inches by the time the winter advisory was lifted Thursday evening.

frosty day
photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette 

The high temperature Thursday was 8 degrees, and the low was expected to dip to minus 4 overnight with a high of only 19 degrees Friday. Even as the snow was tapering off late Thursday, school districts again announced closures and delays.

The state, El Paso County and the city threw everything they had at keeping streets clear for the Front Range's first major storm of the winter.

The full call-outs this early in the season won't affect El Paso County's ability to respond to future storms but could have repercussions later in the year for the city, officials said.

Kimberly Collins sweeps snow off the sidewalk for her friends on Unitah Street just east of Corona Street on Thursday morning, January 5, 2017. She says she loves the snow and loves to help out others. carol Lawrence, the Gazette 

If county snow-removal costs exceed estimates, money can be shifted from road maintenance to snow removal, spokesman Dave Rose said. 

"It's all one pot, but of course, the snowplow operations are a public safety priority," he said.

But this amount of snow at this point in the year isn't concerning, he said.

"While this is a significant event, if you look back for several years, we've had certainly worse starts to the season in terms of costs of operations," Rose said.

The city has a snow- and ice-control budget based on predictions for each winter's snowfall, said city operations manager Jack Ladley.

"It's always possible that we have a winter that catches us off-guard," he said.

So far, this winter isn't threatening to break the budget for snow removal, he said.

Runners, left to right, Michael Shafai, Brian Vitulli lead others up a hill in Bear Creek Park early Thursday, Jan.5, 2017. Their club, Sunrise Striders, runs every Tuesday and Thursday morning starting at 6:00 a.m. Carol Lawrence, The Gazette
Runners, left to right, Michael Shafai, Brian Vitulli lead others up a hill in Bear Creek Park early Thursday, Jan.5, 2017. Their club, Sunrise Striders, runs every Tuesday and Thursday morning starting at 6:00 a.m. Carol Lawrence, The Gazette 

The overnight storm Wednesday and Thursday made it difficult for snowplows to keep up in Colorado Springs, mainly because snow came in bands, said Corey Farkas, manager of the city's Public Works, Operations and Maintenance Division.

"When the band of snow stops and we start to make progress on the streets ... another band rolls through from the southwest and it covers everything that we just plowed," Farkas said Thursday afternoon. "It's really a back-and-forth battle."

frosty day
photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette 

By the weekend, the sun - Colorado's favorite method of snow removal - will return with highs in the 40s and 50s on Sunday and Monday.

More than 140 flights departing from Denver International Airport were canceled Thursday morning, but only three cancellations were reported at the Colorado Springs Airport, officials said.

Most Denver flights canceled were small commuter aircraft that serve mountain towns.

"The bulk of the cancellations are the aircraft that just can't fly in these conditions," said Heath Montgomery, a DIA spokesman. "They are not equipped for the poor visibility."

Canceled departures from Colorado Springs included three United Airlines flights headed for Denver Thursday morning, said Nate Lavin, a spokesman for the Colorado Springs Airport. All other flights were running on time.

Gazette reporters Rachel Riley and Wayne Heilman contributed to this report.

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Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198

Twitter: @lemarie

Facebook: Ellie Mulder

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