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A major storm dumps feet of snow in parts of Colorado and leaves drivers stranded

By Associated Press
Published: March 14, 2024, 8:44am

DENVER (AP) — A major storm dumped heavy snow in Colorado on Thursday – forcing flight cancellations and shutting down a highway that connects Denver to Colorado ski resorts.

The storm, which began Wednesday night, delivered the slushy, wet snow typical for March, one of the snowiest months in Denver, and wasn’t expected to wind down until Friday morning. The heaviest snow accumulations were expected in Colorado’s Front Range region, where the vast majority of the state’s population lives, with most falling in the foothills and mountains west of Denver.

Those higher elevations were expected to get 18 to 36 inches (45 to 91 centimeters), and some amounts exceeding 4 feet (1.2 meters), the National Weather Service said. Denver itself got up to about 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow by Thursday morning, but the weather service warned the snow would intensify again later in the afternoon and evening.

A stretch of Interstate 70 was closed in the Colorado mountains, following numerous reports of vehicles stranded on the highway for hours. While a boon to Colorado’s ski industry, the extreme conditions shut down several ski resorts.

Melanie Brooks was out walking her dogs Thursday morning in Denver.

“I’m kind of sad that I didn’t make it up to the mountains because now it’s tough to drive there, and I’m missing a powder day,” she said.

The Colorado State Patrol urged people to stay off the roads.

“Troopers are getting stuck trying to get to all the stranded motorists,” the patrol posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Aspen Springs, in the foothills west of Denver, had more than 3 feet (about 1 meter) of snow as of Thursday morning.

Since the storm is the rarer kind that brings more snow to the eastern half of the state rather than the Colorado’s higher mountains to the west it may not do much to help feed the Colorado River, which supplies water to more than 40 million people.

More than 75,000 customers were without power across Colorado on Thursday — about 2 percent of electric utility customers statewide and concentrated primarily in metro Denver and along the Front Range, according to poweroutage.us.

The storm started as rain in the Denver area and turned into snow. The area was expected to get 10 to 20 inches (25 to 50 centimeters) of snow, with up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) in the western suburbs, the weather service said.

Jarmila Schultz, 77, was tackling her sidewalks in shifts as the snow continued to fall.

“I have to get out early because I have to do it like four times because it’s going to snow all day,” she said, noting she has cleats on her boots to prevent her from falling. “It’s water, ice and it’s very hard for me to lift.”

But she still loves the snow.

“You know, in my time I skied, snow-shoed and did all this and I think Colorado’s incredible for those type of things.”

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Denver deployed 36 residential plows starting at 3 a.m. Thursday with the plan to shave the top few inches of snow off streets, to help clear paths to main streets.

Tyler Barnes, a Miami native who drove a ride-share overnight, was trying snow-shoeing for the first time Thursday morning, and found it was pretty easy.

“It was really what I hoped it would be like,” he said. “I feel confident I could walk a long way in these.”

Denver International Airport was open Thursday, but about 800 flights were canceled with 100 more delayed, according to Flightaware.com.

The snowstorm comes as other parts of the country face severe weather. Massive chunks of hail pelted parts of Kansas and Missouri on Wednesday night, with storms unleashing possible tornadoes in Kansas.

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