I-70 reopens after snowstorm stranded travelers
April 18, 2009
State transportation officials have reopened an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 70 that was slammed by as much as 3 feet of snow west of Denver, leaving hundreds of travelers stranded overnight.
But Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson still warns that drivers can expect heavy traffic and sloppy road conditions throughout Saturday.
“It’s not the I-70 you know in a June afternoon,” Wilson said.
The American Red Cross opened three shelters in the foothills west of Denver where the snowfall was the heaviest. Red Cross spokesman Jim Rettew said the National Guard delivered two truckloads of cots, blankets and food to the hundreds of travelers who spent Friday night at shelters. Rettew said the shelters were shutting down and staff was being sent home Saturday morning.
He said more than 500 people used the shelters in Idaho Springs and Georgetown. The shelters were set up after transportation officials closed I-70 between Vail and Golden.
About 90 people stayed at an elementary school in Idaho Springs, including people traveling from Alaska, Utah and Washington D.C. said shelter manager Linda Broom.
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“They were really most appreciative and in good spirits because it was pretty late and they had been sitting in traffic, they slept well,” Broom said. “One slept extremely well, as we could all hear.”
Scott Entrekin, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said a mix of rain and snow is still falling across the state, including at Denver International Airport and in the suburbs south of Denver. Entrekin said the southern Denver metro area could see another 2 to 5 inches before the snow tapers off Saturday evening.
Friday’s heavy, wet snow closed highways, canceled flights, caused power outages and forced school closures in parts of Colorado and Wyoming. Snow accumulations of 3 to 4 feet were recorded in the mountains, with 4 to 6 inches measured in Denver.
Denver International Airport was operating normally Saturday, said spokesman Chuck Cannon but he could not speak as to whether any airlines had canceled flights.
United Airlines, the dominant carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled 76 flights Friday. The airport urged travelers to check with their airlines before leaving home. A United Airlines spokeswoman did not immediately know if there were any cancelations Saturday.
Frontier spokeswoman Lindsey Purves said travelers should expect delays, but that the airline is trying to run its full schedule of flights. She said a few of Frontier’s flights were canceled, but did not have a number.
“All in all, the message is we’re pretty much running our full operation here,” she said.
Numerous traffic accidents were reported across Colorado, and Trooper Gilbert Mares of the State Patrol said he knew of one fatality. He said a person was killed late Friday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash on Colorado 52 in Weld County, near Fort Lupton. Details on the victim were not immediately available.
Power lines weighed down by snow tripped system circuit breakers and knocked out electricity to 9,600 Xcel Energy customers in Evergreen and 4,600 people in Nederland, 25 miles west and 35 miles northwest of Denver, respectively, said Joe Fuentes, a spokesman for the utility. Some of those customers were expected to be without power overnight, but crews were working around the clock, he said.
About 2,600 customers also lost power in Denver.
Many suburban Denver schools sent students home early Friday, and at least three Colorado Springs-area high schools delayed weekend proms because of the storm.
The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley moved its football scrimmage to Tuesday because of snow, while Colorado State University canceled its Saturday spring game.