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Blizzard disrupts mail, tourism and trucking

Allyn Harvey and Lynn Burton
Special to The Aspen Times

The most intense blizzard to strike Colorado in decades disrupted postal service, commercial shipping and air travel from Glenwood Springs and Aspen yesterday.

The snow, which ranged from 2.5 feet in Denver to more than 4 feet in outlying suburbs, caused roofs to collapse on at least two buildings in the metro area.

About 100 miles north of Denver, Cheyenne and other Wyoming communities were shut off as Interstates 25 and 80 remained closed. The Colorado National Guard dispatched 21 Humvees to rescue stranded motorists.

The fact that the brunt of the storm was not felt in the central Rockies did little to ease the repercussions of a major disruption of air and ground transit east of the Continental Divide.

Trucks have been stacking up in Glenwood Springs waiting for I-70 to reopen. The U.S. Postal Service’s sorting center in Glenwood Springs operated with a skeleton crew yesterday, because no mail was coming in from Denver.

“We’ve got a skeleton crew,” said Glenwood Springs postmaster Jon Dunbar. “We got a little from Grand Junction, but that’s all we had to deliver.”

Midafternoon on Wednesday, at least two trucks of incoming mail were still stranded somewhere between Denver and Glenwood Springs. Outgoing mail was being routed through Grand Junction.

Dunbar said he doesn’t expect any problems when I-70 clears enough to allow mail trucks to deliver their loads again.

DIA’s closure meant United Express flights were canceled for a second day yesterday. At the Greyhound bus station behind Village Inn in Glenwood, a sign informed customers that all trips were canceled until Thursday.

In Aspen, hotels were dealing with both cancellations by people who were scheduled to arrive this week and extended stays by those stranded by the closure of Denver International Airport.

“Some of our customers are canceling, others are extending,” said Eugenia Iuic, manager on duty at the front desk of the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen. “The ones who are stuck here don’t have any problem – they are happy to be here for another night with the fresh powder.”

Semitrailer rigs were stacked up from Rey Motors to the Interstate 70 offramp in West Glenwood Springs by Wednesday morning forcing truckers like Larry Lucas to pull into the parking lot at the Glenwood Springs Mall.

“There wasn’t any place else to park, other than the shoulder,” Lucas said, as he unscrewed the lid of a gallon of antifreeze. “I don’t know if I’ll get run off here.”

Lucas was one of more than 30 truck drivers who pulled off in Glenwood Springs after hearing on their CB radios that I-70 was closed at Frisco.

This is the second week of spring break, a time when Front Range residents hit the Sunlight Mountain Resort slopes and soak in the Hot Springs Pool. Wigger said it’s “hard to say” whether the blizzard has hurt her business.

Groups of 20 or more, including church groups, are a big part of Sunlight’s spring break business. Spokeswoman Sheila Barber said the I-70 closure didn’t stop any groups from arriving. “They are all here,” she said. “I think everything will be okay.”

Barber said one group planned to leave Wednesday but couldn’t. “So they stuck around and skied another day.”

A source at the Aspen Skiing Co. reported similar responses by visitors stranded here. He said daily skier visits spiked Tuesday, most likely because of the 12 or so inches of fresh powder that fell on Aspen and Snowmass as the blizzard entered the state.

But the Skico source said company management was worried how the storm will affect customers who were planning to arrive over the next several days.

“We’re a little antsy about what’s going to happen here. Once everybody gets out do they get out and nobody comes in?”

[Information from the Associated Press was included in this report]


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