Snowstorm in Aspen creates headaches for cops, commuters

Plow drivers push snow to clear the pedestrian mall in Aspen on Thursday from Wednesday into Thursday's storm.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

While the snow Thursday kept area law enforcement officers busy dealing with car crashes, most were minor and no serious injuries were reported, officials said.

Aspen city police officers responded to 14 accidents between 6:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., Sgt. Rick Magnuson said. The department responded to a total of 33 weather-related calls during the same hours, including people who slipped on ice and general motorist assist calls, he said.

“Traffic this morning was decent largely because school was canceled,” Magnuson said. “That really helped us out. There’s a significant difference in the volume of traffic, especially near the roundabout, when school is canceled.”

Aspen school officials sent out a notice before 5:30 a.m. Thursday that classes were called off.

But as the evening came and the heavy snowfall continued, the Police Department sent out a request around 5:30 p.m. for people to stay off the roads because of “extreme traffic conditions.” The police asked for all “nonessential driving” to be delayed until the conditions improved.

Pitkin County deputies also were busy all day Thursday helping motorists and dealing with minor car accidents, supervisor Michael Buglione said. However, area roads including Brush Creek and Owl Creek remained open all day, he said.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses ran into a few issues in the morning, though the rest of the day was relatively calm, said Ian Adams, a RFTA field supervisor. Between 8 and 8:30 a.m., two buses were stuck downtown and a Crosstown Shuttle was struck by a car that ran a red light, he said.

The buses were unstuck within about 10 minutes and the shuttle damage was minor, he said.

All involved were holding their breath for the evening commute as heavy snow continued in Aspen and the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Magnuson said all Aspen police officers were on hand during the evening commute to try to alleviate problems.

At the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, all aircraft that landed Wednesday night were able to leave Thursday morning, airport director John Kinney said. Fourteen flights were able to take off and another 14 flights were able to land during the day when the weather briefly cleared, he said.

However, United Airlines canceled 14 departures and nine arrivals, while the airline diverted four flights, Kinney said. Delta Airlines canceled three departures and three arrivals, he said. American Airlines was offline and flight information was not available Thursday afternoon, he said.

Airport workers were set to continue plowing runways during the night to make way for flights to arrive Friday, which is forecast to be clear and sunny, Kinney said.

Thursday’s weather also caused the cancellation of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee meeting scheduled for late Thursday afternoon in Snowmass Village.

More than a foot of snow fell atop Aspen Mountain between midnight and 4 p.m. Thursday, according to the Aspen Mountain ski patrol station located at the top of the Gentleman’s Ridge lift.