36 inches! Colorado braces for more snow
DENVER - A slow-moving autumn storm in areas of the Rocky Mountains and western plains has dumped more than three feet of snow in parts of Colorado, closed dozens of schools, delayed flights and left behind icy roads for the morning commute Thursday.
The storm spread a blanket of white from northern Utah's Wasatch Front to western Nebraska's northern border with South Dakota. Forecasters said some areas high in the Rocky Mountains could have 4 feet of snow by the time the storm moved out later Thursday.
The heaviest snowfall was expected to shift to the Plains, and the National Weather Service said gusty winds of up to 40 mph could create severe drifts.
"The plows are out, but the roads are kind of icy and snowpacked," said Ryan Drake, traffic operations specialist for the Colorado Department of Transportation. "Be patient and take your time."
The storm that began Tuesday already added enough snow to break records for total snowfall in October for Wyoming. It was the biggest October snowmaker in the Denver area since 1997, said Byron Louis, a National Weather Service hydrologist.
Many schools in metro Denver remained closed Thursday, but the University of Colorado in Boulder and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where 17.5 inches fell, decided to reopen, a day after sending students home early. At least three high school football playoff games set for Thursday in Nebraska were postponed.
Air travelers had to change plans, too. At Denver International Airport, all four runways were expected to open after snow crews worked through the night, said spokesman Chuck Cannon. He said airlines had not indicated how many flights would be canceled.
The airport warned of more delays, saying it would see a foot of snow by Thursday afternoon.
The Denver metro area will be under a winter storm warning until 6 p.m. Thursday, with snow through the afternoon, blowing snow throughout the day and temperatures in the upper 20s, the National Weather Service said. As much as 7 more inches could fall around parts of Denver before the storm ends.
On the roads, conditions were worse. Multicar pileups were reported in Colorado and Wyoming, with countless fender-benders across the region.
In Colorado, U.S. Highway 6 is closed to Loveland Pass, while Interstate I-25 is closed from Wellington to Cheyenne. The closure is to prevent traffic congestion going into Wyoming, where driving conditions are worse than in northern Colorado. Interstate 80 is closed from Cheyenne to Laramie.
Wyoming officials said they'd had reports of about 70 crashes, most of them on I-80, before deciding to close the road Wednesday.
"People are just not slowing down enough," Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Burrows said.
Laramie County District 1 schools have closed and some state offices are opening later in the day. High winds were causing drifting snow and reduced visibility, and two or three inches of snow were expected to fall Thursday, said meteorologist John Griffith with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne.
The Utah Highway Patrol reported 51 crashes as the storm moved through. Police departments across Colorado started asking drivers in accidents without injuries to just exchange information and report the accidents to police later.
However, no traffic deaths were reported.
Whiteout conditions were predicted Thursday for the plains areas of eastern Colorado and Wyoming and western Nebraska.
Gusts in Southern Calif.
Winds were a concern farther west, too.
Winds gusting through Southern California forced a commuter train line to shut down and knocked a tree onto a car, but no serious injuries have been reported.
The National Weather Service warned of the possibility of further gusts up to 50 mph through Thursday morning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. Fire danger warnings were up in some areas.
Back in Wyoming, the storm brought some big rig truckers to a halt.
"The smart thing is to just shut it down and call it a day," said Donnel Farrow of Willingboro, N.J. Farrow was hauling mail from Pennsylvania to Salt Lake City but pulled over his rig at a truck stop Wednesday just east of Cheyenne, Wyo., after a rough drive across Nebraska.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
‘Major’ winter storm hits Colo., Wyo.
Traffic accidents, flight cancellations and up to 18 inches of snow
The Associated Press, Oct . 28, 2009
CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A major early season snowstorm on Wednesday caused flight cancellations at Denver's airport and made for ugly commutes in Colorado and Wyoming. Blizzard conditions and up to 18 inches of snow were forecast in some areas.
The region's first heavy snow of autumn prompted officials to close schools in Wyoming and was blamed for dozens of accidents in the state and in neighboring Colorado.
Up to 18 inches of snow was forecast in Denver and along the northern Colorado Front Range. As much as 4 feet was possible in the Colorado mountains. Cheyenne was expected to get at least 14 inches before the storm moves off Thursday afternoon.
The National Weather Service predicted similar amounts for a wide area of the Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado plains. The storm also brought snow to northern Utah’s Wasatch Front.
Most of the roughly 70 accidents in Wyoming happened on Interstate 80 before the Wyoming Department of Transportation closed the highway between Cheyenne and Laramie early Wednesday. Nine crashes caused injuries but no one was killed.
“People are just not slowing down enough,” department spokesman Bruce Burrows said.
In Denver, slick roads caused rush-hour fender-benders Wednesday morning. Schools in Colorado and Nebraska closed pre-emptively as the forecast called for heavy precipitation Wednesday and Thursday. A Colorado Springs homeless shelter has decided to allow people who have been kicked out for breaking rules to return because of the inclement weather.
"It's a major early season storm," said Mike Weiland, National Weather Service meteorologist in Cheyenne. "The results are going to be quite a bit of snow and a fairly long duration snow event."
United Airlines and Frontier Airlines, which both have hubs in Denver, were relaxing some fees for changing travel plans in light of the storm forecast.
Cheyenne already has had a snowy October, with 14 inches so far. The average for the month is 3 inches.
Wind could close roads
Meanwhile, wind was expected to be a concern on the flatlands.
“When we start getting those wind gusts on Thursday — gusts up to 40 mph — it’s going to create some blowing and drifting snow and that’s going to cause some problems,” said Dan Deal, with the Weather Service in Cheyenne. Drifts several feet deep and wind chills as low as 10 degrees were forecast.
Whether highways remain open depends a lot on the wind. In Wyoming, large storms often kick up strong winds that cause constant drifting over roads.
"A lot of snow we can deal with pretty well. If the wind comes up, it makes it very difficult to keep up, even with our best technology and our best efforts," said Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Burrows.
Dust storm in Southwest
On Tuesday, the storm front kicked up heavy winds and dust on Tuesday in Nevada, Arizona and California.
Blowing dust was blamed for unhealthy air quality throughout the San Joaquin Valley in California. Regional officials urged residents with asthma and other respiratory ailments to stay indoors and limit outdoor activity.
To the east, thick, gray clouds hung over the Las Vegas Strip just before sunset, and weather officials said gusts had been measured at 47 mph at nearby McCarran International Airport. The front pushed high temperatures down into the high 30s and 40s Tuesday in northern Nevada, about 25 degrees cooler than the day before.
In Arizona, the mountains that surround Phoenix vanished in a gray haze. Several traffic accidents were blamed in part on low visibility.
The front also brought snow to northern Utah, where snow along the Wasatch Front on Tuesday slowed some morning commuters in and around Salt Lake City.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.