Snow triggers avalanche; forces road closures | SummitDaily.com
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Snow triggers avalanche; forces road closures

DON MITCHELL
the associated press

A spring storm brought heavy snow to Western Colorado on Wednesday, dumping up to a foot of snow in the mountains, triggering an avalanche on Red Mountain Pass and creating blizzard-like conditions.

No one was injured when snow came cascading down onto the 11,000-foot elevation pass at about 2 p.m., but it closed U.S. 550. The storm also forced the closure of Colorado 65 on the Grand Mesa on the Western Slope and U.S. 285 about 40 miles southwest of Denver.

The snow swept across the heavily populated Front Range after the evening rush hour, dropping visibility in some areas of the Denver area to near zero. Several inches were expected to fall overnight and the Thursday morning rush hour was expected to be a mess.

A foot of snow fell on Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat Springs, where the ski resort was reporting 9 inches of snow in the past 24 hours. Similar accumulations were reported in the western San Juan mountains in southern Colorado.

At least 5 inches of snow fell in the resort town of Telluride, and strong winds were driving it sideways, said Cash East, a bartender at the Smuggler’s Brew Pub.

“I had a rough time walking to work. I’m glad I wasn’t driving,” East said.

“By the middle of March I expected this season to be over. But then about a week and a half ago, we just started getting nailed, and it’s been pretty steady since then,” he said.

Snow advisories were issued for most of the Colorado, and chains were required on some roads. Traffic was backed up for about hour near Georgetown after tractor-trailer jackknifed and blocked the heavily traveled Interstate 70.

At least 4 inches fell in Montrose, while Glenwood Canyon received 3 1/2. Vail ski area reported 5 inches.

Ellen Heffernan, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the snow was wet and heavy, typical for Colorado in spring.

The statewide snowpack stood at 110 percent of the 30-year average Wednesday. About 80 percent of the state’s water comes from runoff from mountain snows.

On the Net:

National Weather Service: http://www.crh.noaa.gov


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