Brace yourself for a late winter storm that could dump up to 2 feet or more of snow on the region, local officials said at a news briefing March 11.

"Welcome to March in Colorado," Greg Heavener with the National Weather Service in Pueblo said to begin his remarks.

A storm cell that could dump mountains of snow on the area, or only bring rain, is forming off the California coast, and exactly what impact it will bring depends on what happens after it makes landfall, he said.

But Heavener warned snow is expected to be abundant and heavy, posing a hazard to travelers, trees and utility lines.

The storm also will bring stiff winds, which could cause whiteout conditions.

"Stay home," he and others said.

If citizens must be out and about, they should take their phones, chargers, food and water so they're equipped to wait out the storm should they become stuck.

That doesn't mean crews won't rescue them, said Jim Reid, Pikes Peak Regional Office of Emergency Management director.

"This is an unsafe event," he said, noting that local and state Departments of Transportation, law enforcement, emergency responders and road crews are coordinating to be prepared "if we have to do a rescue."

Kevin Mastin, El Paso County Public Works Division deputy director, said, "None of our drivers will ever leave a driver stranded on the side of the road."

But he warned that drivers' jobs do not include towing a vehicle out of a ditch. Rather, they will stop and ascertain whether motorists are safe and have what's needed pending rescue.

"If we have vehicles blocking major arterials, our drivers are authorized to move those vehicles to get traffic flowing so emergency responders can respond," he said.

El Paso County has already started pre-treating roads with a salt/brine solution, Mastin said, and expects to deploy all 34 snowplows on paved roads and 18 graders on gravel roads. It also will use four to six half-ton vehicles to manage trouble spots and will engage front end loaders to move snow, if necessary.

Major roads will get plowed first. After that, collector routes will get attention, he said. Residential streets are lowest priority.

"Please be very patient with our crews getting in there," Mastin said. "It's going to take a while for us to get in there."

He also warned against following plows too closely or trying to pass one.

Jack Ladley, Colorado Springs Public Works operations manager, said city equipment is queued up, including 40 heavy trucks, 15 plows, three motor graders, five front-end loaders and five tractor-trailer dump trucks. The latter will be used if the snow gets so deep it must be removed, such as from the downtown area.

Initially, the city will concentrate on main routes to create pathways to hospitals for emergency responders. Connector streets come second, followed by residential streets.

He said crews will run 24/7 until the storm's aftermath is cleaned up.

Travas Deal, Colorado Springs Utilities chief operations officer, urged people to veer clear of downed or sagging power lines and report issues to 448-4800.

Dennis Will, city forester, said many of the city's 300,000 street trees and 50,000 park trees could be affected by heavy snow. Don't automatically call the city about a tree problem, though. First, verify that the issue involves the city's trees, which are located between the street and sidewalk.

To report a tree problem, go to this app. If unable to report online, you can call 385-5942, but Will said to be aware someone might not get to the message for days, even weeks.