Snowy road

The National Weather Service office in Grand Junction on Thursday issued a winter storm warning in effect for much of central Colorado through midnight tonight, with expectations of heavy snowfall and high winds.

The warning urged motorists to prepare for hazardous road and highway conditions and not to travel unless it’s extremely necessary.

“If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency,” a statement reads.

In addition, the NWS office for Denver-Boulder issued an avalanche warning for many areas of the Western Slope and Front Range that was to be in effect through 8 a.m. Saturday. Travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.

“The avalanche danger is high. Avalanches large enough to bury and kill a person are likely Thursday night and through Friday. You can trigger avalanches from the bottom of slopes or from a distance. If you trigger an avalanche it will be large and very dangerous,” a statement says.

The state transportation department said Thursday that extended closures will be conducted today on mountain highways to conduct avalanche control work. This includes the Interstate 70 corridor.

“Due to the severity of the storm, avalanche control work could close roads at any time during the weekend,” CDOT said in a news release. ”Closures will affect I-70 and several other highways. Motorists should not plan to detour onto State Highway 9 and U.S. Highway 285, as both highways are expected to receive significant snowfall and wind.”

CDOT referred to the storm as a significant snow event. “Motorists need to be prepared for long closures and extreme winter weather. CDOT strongly recommends that travelers in the mountains plan for spending extended amounts of time in their vehicle and to pack whatever they need during that time,” the release states.

The highway department urged travelers to be aware of chain and traction laws before venturing out onto roadways. Road conditions and travel information can be found online at cotrip.org.

Locally, a Friday “snow day” closure was announced Thursday evening for all Basalt and Aspen schools. Forecasters predicted 3-5 inches of snow in the Aspen area for Thursday evening, 1-4 inches of snow for Friday and mostly sunny skies for the daytime hours on Saturday, with snow expected to return on Saturday night.