Shopper in Colo. snowstorm
David Zalubowski  /  AP
An unidentified shopper in Lakewood, Colo., places bags in her vehicle Thursday during the snowstorm.
updated 10/27/2006 1:19:33 PM ET 2006-10-27T17:19:33

Coloradans were digging out Friday after a massive autumn storm left up to 2 feet of snow in the mountains and 4-foot drifts on the Eastern Plains.

Hundreds of miles of highways had been shut down the day before as the biggest October storm in years barreled through the state, but all major routes had reopened by Friday and traffic was moving smoothly.

"Not too shabby," state Department of Transportation spokesman Gene Towne said.

Dozens of schools on the plains were closed Friday, and lawns across the state were littered with broken tree limbs that crashed down under the weight of the wet snow.

The falling branches played havoc with power lines, and up to 90,000 customers in the Denver area alone lost electricity during the storm, Xcel Energy spokesman Tom Henley.

He called the storm "devastating."

Crews had restored power to all but 1,400 by Friday morning, but Henley said it could take until Friday night to get all of them back on line.

Another 20,000 customers lost power in Colorado Springs but service was restored to all but about 1,000 by Friday, the city-owned utility said.

Flights back to normal
Denver International Airport and United Airlines officials said operations were back to normal by Friday. At least 110 flights were canceled Thursday, most of them by United, the airport's busiest carrier.

The storm began late Wednesday and turned highways wet and slushy across the state. At one point, snow was falling at a rate of about 3 inches an hour in Denver.

The storm shut down dozens of schools, courthouses, voting centers Thursday and even chased office employees home early from a sheriff's office.

Small towns in the mountains and foothills just west of Denver appeared to get the heaviest snowfall, with Evergreen reporting 25 inches and Conifer reporting 22 inches and 4-foot drifts. Two feet fell in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Denver International Airport got 5 inches. Some suburbs reported up to 10 inches of snow that fell at about 3 inches an hour before the storm moved east onto the Plains, where it caused more trouble.

Jackknifed trucks
A 15-inch snowfall blew into 3- and 4-foot drifts about 30 miles southeast of Denver Thursday night. A 150-mile stretch of Interstate 70 was closed from Denver to Burlington, near the Kansas line, after falling temperatures turned slush to ice.

"There's an awful lot of trucks jackknifed in the median or across the road," said Dick Hormann, who was waiting out the delay at the Flying J Travel Plaza restaurant in Limon, about 70 miles southeast of Denver. "There's a lot of rigs across the road in both directions."

At least one ski resort, Keystone, announced it would open Nov. 3, a week earlier than planned.

"This storm really put them over the top," said Molly Cuffe, a spokeswoman for the industry group Colorado Ski Country USA.

The storm also was welcome for water utilities and farmers, as the closely watched mountain snowpack — which provides much of the state's water — got an early boost.

"We've probably got a good three-week jump on the season," said Mike Gillespie of the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, which tracks Colorado's mountain snow.

Large October snowstorms are common in Colorado, but this was the strongest in several years, National Weather Service spokesman Carl Burroughs said.

"We haven't had a real good storm like this in a while," he said. "It dumped a lot of snow pretty quick and then moved on."

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