Statewide emergency declared as ‘bomb cyclone’ bashes Summit County, Front Range
In what is labeled a “statewide event,” the Colorado Department of Transportation was opening and closing highways at a frenetic pace across Colorado amid a “bomb cyclone” blizzard that wreaked traffic havoc across the Front Range and High Country, as well as causing the cancellation of nearly 1,000 flights at Denver International Airport.
Gov. Jared Polis has declared a state of emergency for the first time in his short tenure Wednesday, activating the Colorado National Guard to assist state and local authorities in helping hundreds of stranded motorists. Over 500 motorists are reportedly stranded in El Paso County alone.
Amid the chaos, a Colorado State Patrol trooper made the ultimate sacrifice. Trooper Daniel Groves, 52, died when he was struck by an out-of-control vehicle. Groves was assisting a stranded motorist on Interstate 76 when the accident happened.
Safety and avalanche closures along the Interstate 70 mountain corridor caused daylong closures, resolving in the evening. Avalanche danger remains “high” given the recent storm activity.
CDOT is strongly urging all residents to stay at home and off of the roads as winds and snowdrifts continue to be a high hazard. Motorists will not be allowed to wait on the highway for closures to be lifted, and CDOT said that safety patrols are assisting drivers to shelters wherever possible, with National Guard assistance.
CDOT said that over 100 plows are working in the Denver metropolitan region alone in what was billed as a “winter hurricane,” blowing gale-force winds across the plains, creating whiteout conditions and severely limiting visibility.
The winds were caused by a sudden, severe drop in barometric pressure that creates hurricane-like conditions. Climatologist Russ Schumacher from Colorado State University described the storm as “one of the strongest ones we’ve seen in this part of the country.”
Interstate 25 and I-70 have both been closed at the north and east borders of the state. Many motorists were or remain stranded on I-25, which is now the worst-affected major thoroughfare in the state. Nearly 200,000 Xcel customers are without power in the Denver metro region, with the utility warning of multiday outages for some areas.
In the mountain corridor, I-70 is currently open, but avalanches remain a high concern. An estimated 200 cars need removal from I-25. The National Guard is performing specific tasks across the state in assisting local authorities with clearing roads and keeping people safe. Aside from Trooper Groves, no other fatalities have been recorded today. I-25 in Denver and across the border into Wyoming will remain closed into tomorrow, as well as I-70 East going into the Eastern Plains and Kansas.
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