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Storm slams Colorado, 4 die

Colorado was caught by surprise by a fast-moving storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on higher elevations.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A surprise storm dumped more than a foot of wet, heavy snow on Colorado, disrupting power, shutting down schools and closing highways Friday with piles of dangerous slush.

The weather caused dozens of traffic accidents from Colorado Springs through heavily populated Denver, 60 miles away. Interstate 25 was closed at the Colorado-New Mexico line because of poor conditions on 7,834-foot-high Raton Pass. About 2,000 people lost power near Alamosa.

The lights also went out at the Black Diamond casino in Cripple Creek, where a foot of snow fell by midmorning. Manager James Krajeck, speaking by telephone from the darkened gambling hall, said there were only two customers when the casino opened.

“We’re not going to have much of a business today, and we probably won’t stay open if the storm keeps up,” Krajeck said. “Even though we’re going to lose some business out of this deal, I’m glad to see the moisture.”

A day earlier, cold rain was blamed for a two-car collision that killed four people near Sterling, 125 miles northeast of Denver.

Dust storms, tornadoes
Also Thursday, blinding dust storms in New Mexico caused a series of crashes on Interstate 40, killing one woman and injuring 13 other people, state police there said.

Workers closed I-40 for hours and sprayed the roadway to keep down the dust after the chain-reaction wreck that killed one driver.

And in Oklahoma, tornadoes and strong wind tore off roofs and caused other property damage, but apparently no injuries Thursday. Severe weather also was expected Friday.

Damage from Oklahoma’s storms stretched over at least six counties. In Enid, winds up to 70 mph damaged a grocery store, forcing it to close.

“I’m worried it will rain again before we get this roof covered,” store manager Tracey Sanders said. “It’s a safety hazard.”

Double-digit snow in Colorado
In Colorado, many roads, even in the mountains, were wet rather than icy. Still, many school districts in the Colorado Springs area were closed due to traveling conditions.

The highest snowfall amount reported was 16 inches near Nathrop, in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. Other areas received a foot, 13 inches fell west of Boulder, and the foothills west of Denver received 8 inches.

Another 4 inches to 8 inches was forecast in eastern Colorado before the storm moves east.

Mike Gillespie, a snowpack expert with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, said the storm put a dent in the drought that has hurt Colorado and other parts of the West for years.

“We’ve got quite a ways yet to go,” he told KCNC-TV. “These storms are very helpful, and it’d be a little more relief if we could just get them earlier in the year, so that we wouldn’t have to wait until the bitter end here. But we’ll certainly take what we can get.”