I-70 shuts down from Golden to Vail | SummitDaily.com

I-70 shuts down from Golden to Vail

Daily Staff and The Associated Press

Summit Daily/Mark FoxA lone skier walks down a quiet, snow-covered Main Street in Breckenridge on his way to the gondola Friday morning. Heavier snow east of Summit County snarled traffic and closed the interstate Friday.

Winter weather and several accidents have led to closure of Interstate-70 for about 80 miles in both directions between Golden and Vail.

“There are accidents all throughout that stretch,” said Ryan Drake, spokesman for Colorado Department of Transportation. “What it’s doing is not allowing any plows to get through.”

He said the highway was closed indefinitely to allow the snowplows to get through and for the accidents to be cleared.

At 4:30 p.m., he said there was no estimate for when the highway will be re-opened.

A winter storm warning is in effect until Saturday at noon, according to the National Weather Service.

More than a foot of wet, heavy snow closed highways and canceled flights in parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Friday, snarling traffic and forcing school closures and flight cancellations.

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Up to 3 feet snow was expected by Saturday night in the mountains above 6,000 feet, forecasters said. Nearly 2 feet had already fallen in Rocky Mountain National Park about 60 miles northwest of Denver.

The chilly weather forced a return to heavy coats and snow boots for some who’d already packed away their winter clothes.

“I cannot get used to this snow,” said Myra Gonzalez, 25, who moved to Denver from southern California two years ago. She usually drives to work but opted for the bus after seeing heavy flakes outside.

“Now I’m stuck on the bus. I didn’t even want to mess with it,” the customer-service worker said.

The storm was welcomed at ski areas, though, where the economic downturn has reduced bookings more than 8 percent from last year at some resorts.

On Friday, the slopes were packed with late-season skiers and snowboarders taking their final runs of the season ” most resorts close Sunday.

“This is why we live here, to have the slopes to ourselves in April,” said Kristen Petitt, spokeswoman at Colorado’s most-visited resort, Breckenridge.

The storm was not without headaches, though. A 140-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and many smaller roads in Wyoming were closed. A 30-mile stretch of Interstate 25 from Wellington, Colo., to Cheyenne, Wyo., was closed briefly.

Authorities had no immediate reports of serious injuries, but a snow plow driver suffered minor injuries late Thursday when his truck rolled down a snowpacked embankment on Red Mountain in southwestern Colorado. A motorist freed him.

Parts of central and southern Wyoming were under a winter storm warning. Federal courts and city offices were closed in Cheyenne, where at least 14 inches were predicted. The Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne canceled an Earth Day celebration planned for Saturday.

Denver and Colorado Springs were expecting 10 to 20 inches of snow by Saturday night. The American Red Cross Mile High Chapter readied three shelters in Clear Creek and Douglas counties by Friday afternoon, though they weren’t immediately opened

Many suburban Denver schools sent students home early Friday, and at least three Colorado Springs-area high schools delayed weekend proms because of the storm.

Colorado State University in Fort Collins called off a pancake breakfast before its spring football scrimmage Saturday. The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley moved its football scrimmage to Tuesday because of snow.

United Airlines, the dominant carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled 76 flights. The airport urged travelers to check with their airlines before leaving home. A spring storm last month stranded hundreds of passengers overnight.

Snow also delayed a bus convoy carrying 60 prisoners from Oklahoma to Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Corrections said the convoy had to stop a few miles into Wyoming on Thursday night because of traffic backups. The medium-security prisoners were waiting out the storm at a county jail in Laramie before continuing to a state prison in Rawlins, said department spokesman Carl Voigtsberger.

In Texas, thunderstorms moved through northern areas Friday. Thursday night, hail was so heavy in parts of west Texas that a stretch of Interstate 27 was shut down so snowplows could clear it away.

At least four tornadoes touched down in west Texas on Thursday. No injuries were reported.