Grand County digging out after massive winter storm, part of statewide ‘bomb cyclone,’ pummels area
March 13, 2019
Grand County is still digging out from the massive winter storm that blanketed most of the area Wednesday.
During arguably the county's biggest snowstorm this winter, schools released students early, businesses closed their doors and travel was discouraged.
While an average of more than a foot of snow fell across the county, the biggest complication for drivers was the whiteout conditions caused by gusty winds.
The storm was an effect from a massive bombogenesis, or "bomb cyclone," that impacted much of the state, leading Gov. Jared Polis to declare a state of emergency and activating the National Guard.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a "bomb cyclone," essentially a winter hurricane, occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, or quickly drops in atmospheric pressure.
For a storm to be classified as such, specific conditions must be present, namely when a storm’s central barometric pressure drops at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. A millibar is a way of measuring pressure. So, the lower the pressure, the more powerful the storm.
It can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, according to NOAA.
The low-pressure system tracked across southeast Colorado and southwest Kansas throughout Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder.
"The storm center itself never came over the Front Range area, but it was still a very big storm," a NWS meteorologist confirmed Thursday. "It affected pretty much all of Colorado."
While Grand County wasn't in the direct crosshairs of the storm, it certainly still felt great effects.
About 12 car crashes were reported Wednesday, according to the Grand County Sheriff's Office, with countless more slide-offs due to slick road conditions and poor visibility.
One vehicle traveling along Highway 34 near the south shore of Lake Granby lost control and slid off the road onto the frozen lake. No injuries were reported.
The most serious crash occurred early Wednesday morning, leading to a temporary closure of Highway 40.
Highway 40, between Parshall and Kremmling, was closed briefly at around 8 a.m. as authorities worked to clear a two-vehicle collision that resulted in multiple injuries.
Local and state authorities had to extricate passengers from the wreck, which occurred near milepost 193. According to local law enforcement, a Waste Management garbage truck collided with a passenger vehicle carrying multiple passengers.
Authorities confirmed that at least three individuals were injured in the collision, including at least one serious injury. No fatalities have since been reported.
Beginning at around noon, 187 miles of Highway 40 were closed, stretching from just east of Kremmling to the Colorado-Utah border because of severely limited visibility. It was fully reopened at about 7 p.m.
Following a scheduled avalanche mitigation closure at 1 p.m., Berthoud Pass was ultimately fully closed to traffic due to poor conditions and didn't reopen until about 9:30 p.m.
While skiers and boarders enjoyed the 16 inches of snow that fell at Winter Park Resort, many others around the county were forced to stay inside, asked by the sheriff's office and emergency management to limit travel.
Both East and West Grand school districts closed early, releasing students after noon. It marked the first time East Grand School District had closed early due to a winter-weather event since St. Patrick's Day in 2003, according to Grand County Superintendent Frank Reeves.
Many businesses around the county followed suit, closing their doors for the day. The Lift transit service was also suspended at 6 p.m.
According to the weather service, the forecast in Grand County for the next five days shows sunny conditions and daily high temperatures in the mid- to high-30s.
Here were the live updates from throughout Wednesday.
9:30 p.m. Wednesday: Berthoud Pass has been reopened to traffic.
7:44 p.m.: According to local reports, at least 30 CDOT and local public works plows were hard at work throughout the day to clear Grand County’s roads.
6:31 p.m.: Many highways around the state remain closed due to the severe weather conditions. The only closure at the moment in Grand County is Berthoud Pass.
6:28 p.m.: ROAD OPENING — Highway 40, from Kremmling to Steamboat Springs, has been reopened. Though the Grand County Sheriff’s Office is cautioning that it might not stay open if high winds continue to contribute to poor visibility.
6 p.m.: The Lift transit system has ceased service for the day. It will resume normal operation Thursday.
5:01 p.m. Interstate 70 has reopened in both directions, from U.S. 6 to Golden.
4:42 p.m.: The National Weather Service in Boulder is calling for one to two additional inches of snow in Grand County between 6 p.m. tonight and 6 p.m. Thursday.
Here is the additional snowfall we can expect out of this #Blizzard as the heart of it shifts north and east across the plains this evening. Blizzard continues over the plains roughly east of I-25. #COwx pic.twitter.com/WJXTUdJt7b
— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) March 13, 2019
4:22 p.m.: BUS SCHEDULE CHANGES — The Wednesday night schedule for The Lift is being adjusted due to extreme weather. The last local route leaving Winter Park Resort will depart at 5:30 p.m. The last bus on the Granby Line leaving Winter Park Resort will depart at 6 p.m. and all Lift transit service will be halted at 6 p.m.
4:16 p.m.: ROAD OPENING — An alternate route has been opened to access Steamboat Springs. Travelers can take Highway 40 west of Kremmling to Highway 134, about five miles north of Kremmling, then connect to Highway 131 and travel north to Steamboat. Highway 40 between Steamboat Springs and Craig has been reopened.
4:15 p.m.: ROAD OPENING — County Road 804, from Safeway to top of Meadow Ridge Hill in Fraser, has been reopened.
3:37 p.m.: Snow is tapering off in eastern Grand County. The National Weather Service in Boulder is forecasting wind chills as low as -6 degrees Wednesday evening into Thursday morning. Thursday could see wind chill values as low as -4 degrees during the day.
3:25 p.m.: Gov. Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency in Colorado.
Colorado State Emergency Operations Center #SEOC moves to Level II Operations as we bring in more resources to support #COwx impacts. The Governor has authorized the activation of the @CONG1860 andv erbally declared an emergency due to #COwx
— CO – Emergency Mgmt (@COEmergency) March 13, 2019
3:18 p.m.: CLOSURE — Many Grand County businesses have closed for the day due to weather, including Pepe Osaka’s and Charlie’s Frozen Treat Shop in Winter Park; Dollar General and County Ace Hardware in Granby; and Altitude Pizza in Granby has no delivery today, only pick-up.
3:12 p.m.: ROAD CLOSURE — Berthoud Pass will be closing shortly in both directions due to weather and road conditions. There is no estimated time for reopening.
2:38 p.m.: Winter Park Resort is reporting about 12 inches of snow since last night. Roughly 10 inches since this morning.
1:24 p.m.: SCHOOLS CLOSURE — Buses at Granby schools will begin loading at 1:45 p.m. and at 2:30 p.m. at Fraser Elementary.
12:55 p.m.: SCHOOLS CLOSURE — East Grand Schools will be closing early today, but no specific time for release has so far been provided. According to Superintendent Frank Reeves, the schools are waiting to make sure bus drivers are at the schools and ready to drive before announcing a definite time to parents. Parents may pick up their children at any time and the schools will announce bus departure times as soon as possible.
12:55 p.m.: CLOSURE — All Middle Park Health clinics in Grand County will be closing at 1 p.m. and opening late Thursday, at 10 a.m. Emergency departments in Granby and Kremmling will remain open.
12:53 p.m.: All county offices are closing at 1 p.m.
12:37 p.m.: ROAD CLOSURE — Both lanes of Interstate 70 from U.S. 6 to Golden — milepost 244 to 259 — is closed due to a crash. No estimated time of reopening.
12:31 p.m.: CLOSURE — The Grand County Administration building in Hot Sulphur Springs will be closing at 1 p.m.
12:15 p.m.: SCHOOLS CLOSURE — West Grand School District will have early release at 1 p.m. Buses are still running to normal stops.
11:51 a.m.: AVALANCHE WARNING — The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for Berthoud Pass. Backcountry avalanche conditions are very dangerous, according to the CAIC. Avoid crossing or traveling below backcountry avalanche terrain and other steep slopes. Natural and human triggered avalanches are very likely. They could break hundreds or thousands of feet wide and run to valley floors. Avalanches are impacting lower elevations and locations that have not seen avalanche activity in recent years. A potent storm with wet, heavy snow and strong shifting winds will keep avalanche conditions dangerous.
11:50 a.m.: ROAD CLOSURE — Both lanes of Highway 40 are closed starting at milepost 187, just east of Kremmling, to the Utah-Colorado state border due to whiteout conditions. There is no estimated time of reopening.
11:41 a.m.: ROAD CLOSURE — County Road 804, from Safeway to top of Meadow Ridge Hill in Fraser, has been temporarily closed.
11:35 a.m.: The Grand County Sheriff’s Office is asking people not to call 911 or dispatch for road conditions.
11:30 a.m.: RMNP CLOSURE — Due to heavy accumulations of snow, winds and white out conditions at higher elevations, U.S. Highway 36 is closed at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park and U.S. Highway 34 is closed at the Fall River Entrance and U.S. Highway 34 is closed at the Grand Lake Entrance to vehicles.
11:20 a.m.: Heavy snow continues to fall across all of Grand County, limiting traffic on roads as conditions are poor. A winter storm warning remains in effect for Grand County, according to the National Weather Service in Boulder. The warning is set to expire at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
11:19 a.m.: The current temperature is 29 degrees, with winds northwest at 7 mph. Heavy, continuous snowfall has been reported across Grand County.
11 a.m. Wednesday: ROAD CLOSURE — Berthoud Pass will be closed for avalanche mitigation at around 1 p.m. today.