School closures and delays plentiful, shelters fill in the Pikes Peak region as temperatures dip

By: Andrea Sinclair and Lisa Walton, The Gazette
February 4, 2014 Updated: February 5, 2014 at 7:20 am
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Many school districts in the Pikes Peak region have canceled classes or are on delayed status Wednesday morning as the National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory through 11 a.m.

Widefield District 3 and Fountain-Fort Carson District 8 announced at about 7 a.m. Wednesday that classes are called off for the day.

Colorado Springs District 11, Academy District 20, Lewis-Palmer District 38 and Falcon District 49 are among the other districts in the region that have canceled classes.

District 11 tweeted: "Due to a change in the windchill factor at 6am, District 11 has decided to close schools today."

Click here for current closures and delays.

The Springs Rescue Mission's winter warming shelter was full Tuesday night as the city's homeless sought to escape vicious single-digit temperatures.

With no sign that the bitter cold will let up anytime soon, the shelter - usually only open nights as part of the winter shelter program - announced it would stay open around-the-clock until at least Thursday. Temperatures aren't expected to rise until Friday, and even then, the high is projected at only 32 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Bob Hughes, vice president of programs at the Springs Rescue Mission, said the shelter's 35 beds are filled via lottery. The mission offers three meals a day and also tries to provide the homeless with dry socks, gloves and hats.

Another shelter, The R.J. Montgomery Center on South Sierra Madre Street, also was operating at capacity Tuesday and will remain open during the day, said director Gene Morris. The Salvation Army-run center offers about 180 beds regularly and about 30 additional beds on cold nights.

Both shelters likely will remain full, as temperatures on Wednesday aren't expected to top 8 degrees and could go as low at minus 5 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. A total nighttime snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches was possible Tuesday night,

A winter weather advisory was in effect until 11 p.m. Tuesday, and icy conditions on Colorado Springs' major traffic arteries caused snags for commuters; wrecks began early in the day in all parts of the region.

Fountain police went into accident alert status at 6 a.m. and Colorado Springs police followed suit by 8 a.m. A crash by Fort Carson's Gate 5, on Titus Boulevard, blocked lanes and stalled access to the military base. A vehicle reportedly hit a pedestrian in a northeastern neighborhood, and two lanes of northbound Powers Boulevard at Hancock Expressway were closed for a wreck.

The Colorado State Patrol also was on cold reporting for El Paso and Teller counties by 8:15 a.m., according to a tweet from the agency.

The Colorado Springs Streets Division announced immediately that snow crews were working on primary roadways citywide.

Between 5 and 6 p.m., about 5 inches of snow accumulation was reported near the Broadmoor area, about 2.5 inches was reported in the downtown area, and 1.6 inches was reported at the airport. By Tuesday evening, many of the region's school districts had announced two-hour delays for Wednesday,

Colorado Springs road crews used Tuesday's snowfall as an opportunity to keep trying a new approach to snow removal: plow to the storm, said streets division manager Corey Farkas.

"The old protocol dictated that we would take care of the primary routes first and stay on them until the snow stopped and conditions were optimal. We have to adapt to each storm, because each is unique," Farkas explained. "Now we make sure we focus on the secondary school routes to get children to schools safely."

A citywide callout of plows was implemented at midnight, with 39 trucks active: 35 heavy trucks equipped with sanders and plows and four 4x4 pickups, Farkas said.

"We're trying new things and experimenting, and so far we've had great results," Farkas said.

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