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February 1, 2014
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Storm hampers transportation

Flights were canceled, schools were closed and buses were delayed Friday as 30 inches of snow fell on the area between Thursday morning and Friday afternoon.

Aspen/Pitkin County Airport Director Jim Elwood said all commercial flights were canceled Friday, though there was at least one operational private flight. With another 8 to 12 inches in the forecast before 5 a.m. today, he said the airport will recover as “quickly as it can.”

“After one of these events, it usually takes a little bit for the airplanes to be back in the right positions,” he said, adding that Denver International Airport will have its own weather-related issues that may affect Aspen flights. “They’ll be flying as soon as the weather lifts.”

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority CEO Dan Blankenship said bus operations were delayed throughout the day, particularly near Rubey Park, where many buses were sliding off the crown of the roadway on Durant Avenue. In addition, he said maintenance crews were working double shifts to keep bus stops clear of snow.

“It’s been very challenging because within a half an hour or an hour after they’ve cleared the stop, it can have 2 to 3 more inches of snow,” he said.

When comparing Aspen with Atlanta, where 3 inches of snow essentially paralyzed the city Wednesday, Blankenship said it’s remarkable that RFTA is even able to continue operating in such a major storm.

“I think the vast majority of our customers understand that we’re doing the best that we can to be as on-time as we can be,” he said, adding that users can track bus information at www.myrfta.com. “But there are going to be, understandably, some delays. People need to be prepared for the buses being a little bit late.”

Pitkin County sheriff’s spokesman Alex Burchetta said the snowstorm caused three car accidents in which someone had to be transported to the hospital, though injuries were minor. On Thursday, there was a three-car accident in which two people were taken to the hospital. Another accident that evening at the Aspen Business Center resulted in a separate trip to the hospital.

Burchetta said the Sheriff’s Office responded to about 8 to 10 calls where cars, and even midsize SUVs, had slid off or gotten stuck on the roadway during the storm. He urged anyone who is having trouble to call the Sheriff’s Office.

“If you do get stuck, give us a call. Don’t leave the car,” he said. “We obviously don’t want you walking around in adverse weather conditions or on a snowy highway, where visibility is low.”

Jerry Nye, superintendent of the city’s Street Department, said that a nine-man crew worked from midnight to 9 a.m. on Friday, clearing the roads for bus routes. During the 2007-08 season, he said snowfall was so great that the city had to use Marolt Open Space for snow storage after the snow dump across from the airport became full. He said he didn’t anticipate that happening with this storm, but “we might if we keep getting snow.”

The city’s Utility Department dealt with a water-main break on the Mill Street pedestrian mall near McDonald’s. Director of utilities and environmental initiatives David Hornbacher said the leak was a minor one and that it’s not uncommon in the winter, when temperatures are low. He said no businesses were affected by it and that he hoped to have it repaired by Friday evening.

Many schools were closed Friday, including the entire Aspen School District and Colorado Mountain College in Aspen, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Spring Valley and Edwards.

herk@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 1, 2014 04:29PM Published Feb 4, 2014 07:06AM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.