High winds, snow heading out of Colorado
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – Strong bands of snow that closed major highways, knocked out power to thousands of customers and raised avalanche danger across Colorado headed out of the state Thursday.
The storm was moving along a day after fierce winds pounded the Front Range, delaying flights and downing power lines.
About 7,000 Xcel Energy customers were still without power, but most were expected to regain service Thursday evening, the utility said. About 46,000 customers had lost power after high winds Wednesday.
In Aspen, an intense, early morning whiteout closed schools for the day and led the Sheriff’s Office to issue an accident alert for all of Pitkin County. Snowmass picked up 4 1/2 inches of new snow during the morning hours, but winds forced closure of the Cirque Poma, the highest lift at Snowmass, and the gondola on Aspen Mountain was shut down shortly before 1 p.m.
Elsewhere in the mountains, the Colorado Department of Transportation said eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 70 were reopened following avalanche control over Vail Pass.
The fierce winds that pounded the Front Range on Wednesday brought bands of snow that swept across the Denver metro area early Thursday, catching many by surprise.
The storm dumped snow in the mountains, with up to 25 inches expected in the northern mountains.
“We didn’t know where these bands of snow were going to set up,” said National Weather Service forecaster Kyle Fredin.
Some central and southwestern mountain areas received 8 to 15 inches of snow, with another 6 to 10 inches expected by Thursday night, he said.
The storm came in hard Thursday morning, making it difficult for snowplows to keep up.
“This is a heavy, wet snow that will pack quickly, making the roads very slick,” Transportation Department spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said in a statement.
The biggest closure blocked parts of the I-70 west mountain corridor west of Denver and near Vail for several hours.
Ice and low visibility may have contributed to a fatal crash Thursday morning in the mountains south of Breckenridge. An Acura on Colorado 9 was struck by two pickup trucks after failing to negotiate a turn on the icy road and sliding, the Colorado State Patrol said.
The Acura’s driver, a 40-year-old Littleton man, died at the scene. A passenger in the Acura and one of the pickup drivers were injured.
Officials at Denver International Airport said there were no major cancellations Thursday after strong winds limited flights to only westbound arrivals on Wednesday. Some delays due to deicing were expected on Thursday.
The winds Wednesday were clocked at nearly 90 mph as they downed power lines and trees, and fueling two wildland fires in Boulder County. The fires were contained by Wednesday night, allowing residents to return home.
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Bluebird skies, spring-like temperatures and a few inches of snow from Monday night’s storm helped Snowmass skiers and snowboarders cruise into the season Wednesday for opening day.