IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

36 inches! Colo. spring snow strands hundreds

Utility workers in Colorado were trying Sunday to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses that lost their electrical service during a powerful snowstorm.
APTOPIX Spring Storm
Flowering tulips are covered with ice and snow in Denver on Friday, as a spring storm swept over Colorado.David Zalubowski / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Utility workers in Colorado were trying Sunday to restore power to thousands of homes and businesses that lost their electrical service during a powerful snowstorm.

Xcel Energy spokesman Joe Fuentes said 8,200 customers in the city of Evergreen still were blacked out Sunday morning, while 1,500 homes and business in Boulder and 800 homes in Denver also had no electricity.

Fuentes said crews worked through the night and were still on the job Sunday morning trying to restore service.

The storm struck Friday and dropped as much as 52 inches of snow in the foothills west of Denver, with up to 10 inches in the metro area.

The storm also closed an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 70 from Friday into Saturday, stranding hundreds of travelers.

More than 500 people had spent the night at three shelters in Idaho Springs and Georgetown after the closure, said Jim Rettew, an American Red Cross spokesman.

The Colorado National Guard delivered two truckloads of cots, blankets and food to the stranded travelers.

Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson said Saturday morning that the highway was reopened but cautioned drivers to expect heavy traffic and sloppy road conditions throughout the day.

"It's not the I-70 you know in a June afternoon," Wilson said.

'In good spirits'
After the highway reopened, the shelters were shut down Saturday.

About 90 people spent the night at an elementary school in Idaho Springs, including people traveling from Alaska, Utah and Washington, D.C., said shelter manager Linda Broom.

"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."

The heaviest snowfall was in the foothills west of Denver, with 43 inches at Pinecliffe and 36 at Black Hawk, said weather service meteorologist Scott Entrekin. He said April could sometimes be one of the state's snowiest months.

A mixture of rain and snow continued falling across the state Saturday morning, and Entrekin said the southern Denver metro area could see 2 to 5 more inches before the storm tapers off Saturday evening.

Flights were delayed or canceled at Denver International Airport as snow turned to rain Saturday. United Airlines, the airport's dominant carrier, canceled 76 flights on Friday, 14 on Saturday and delayed several others, said spokeswoman Robin Urbanski.

Electricity goes out
Power lines weighed down by snow tripped system circuit breakers and knocked out electricity to more than 18,000 customers in and west of Denver and Boulder. Crews hoped to restore power by nightfall, Xcel Energy spokesman Joe Fuentes said.

Along I-70, the Red Cross had to open a second shelter in Idaho Springs late Friday after its first shelter there filled to capacity with more than 300 people, Rettew said late Friday.

The stranded travelers didn't all get cots, but many got snacks and most were in good spirits, he said.

"Some are trying to sleep, some are talking, some are eating, some are on the phone," Rettew said. "When this kind of thing happens, everyone just makes the best in trying circumstances."

The National Guard escorted a caravan of volunteers and supplies to the shelters after Clear Creek County declared an emergency and asked for state assistance.

Numerous traffic accidents were reported across Colorado, and State Patrol Trooper Gilbert Mares said he knew of one fatality.

U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass, the main road to the Winter Park ski resort, also was shut down Friday evening because of a pair of avalanches. A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation said no injuries were reported.