Old Man Winter socks it to Thursday commuters

— People across the Yampa Valley awoke Thursday morning to the sound of cars that would not start and the moans of drivers frustrated with their inability to help the situation.

Freezing temperatures arrived Wednesday evening and kept much of Northwest Colorado in a cold grip throughout the next day.

Those fortunate enough to hear the familiar sound of their car's engine turning over may have noticed the negative double digits that appeared on the Wells Fargo marquee in downtown Steamboat Springs.

Weather reports from the National Weather Service in Grand Junction reported lows of 19 to 29 below throughout town.

Like many towing services in and around Steamboat Springs, Sunshine Mountain Auto received its share of calls for assistance.

Kenny Ferrier, a driver for the towing service, said people were still calling for help with their reluctant vehicles by early afternoon.

"We've seen a lot of no-starts," he said.

The business was able to jumpstart most of the cars on site, Ferrier added.

Doc's Auto Clinic, a local auto repair shop, doesn't offer towing services, so owner Brian Small offered advice over the phone to frazzled callers.

"They all said that their car almost wants to start," he said.

Patience went a long way Thursday.

When callers exhausted all of his suggestions, Small said, he advised them to wait for the temperature to rise.

In colder temperatures, people should think about purchasing an engine block heater, placing a blanket over the hood of their car or dropping a light down into the engine, Small said.

The latter two should be followed with caution, he added.

Some of the people who rely on the city transit service waited somewhat longer for their ride Thursday morning.

Several bus drivers began their routes later than planned when they encountered some difficulty in starting the buses.

Not all of the city's buses are housed indoors overnight, said Steamboat Springs Transit Manager George Krawzoff, which complicated drivers' efforts to begin on schedule.

Riders, however, were understanding of the delays, he said.

Cold weather may actually invite more passengers, Krawzoff said.

When people who usually drive to work can't start their cars, they head for the bus stop, he said.

Despite the frigid conditions, the transit system functioned well, he said.

"We've done this for a while," Krawzoff said. "We deal with it as well as anybody here."

While humans bundled up in parkas, hats, scarves, and mittens for protection against the frigid temperatures, their furry counterparts handled the cold head-on.

Claudia Hrebicek, house manager for the Home Ranch in Clark, said the ranch's more than 160 horses don't seem to mind the colder days, provided the animals have adequate shelter, food and water.

A heated tank ensures the

horses' water doesn't freeze, and horses are fed often.

Horses actually generate heat by eating, Hrebicek said, so it's best to feed the horses at the two coldest times of the day sun up and sun down.

"So is life when you have pets," she said.

Around town, people whose jobs demand they often work outside continued with their regular, albeit chillier, routines.

Dave Dremel and Coy Horton of Union Pacific worked steadily to repair some blown fuses at a railroad crossing along Trafalgar Drive, despite the cold that nipped at their bare hands.

Colder temperatures always pose the risk of frostbite and overexposure, Dremel said.

Occasionally, the men sat in their vehicles to warm their hands and faces.

On colder days they try to focus on inside work, Dremel said, but some jobs cannot always be postponed.

Judith Moccia-Sattler and her husband, Bob Sattler, of Washington didn't think twice about venturing outside.

They strapped on their cross country skis for an early afternoon jaunt around Howelsen Hill.

The couple said they didn't expect such cold temperatures, but they weren't about to use it as an excuse to miss out on Steamboat.

People distressed over future headaches over cars that refuse to start in the cold weather should take heart.

Paul Frisbie, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said February should bring a gradual warming trend.

As the days get longer, the average February low in Steamboat should increase by 6 or 7 degrees by the end of the month.

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