Colorado snowstorm closes highways and schools for a second day

A lone vehicle moves eastbound along normally-conggested Speer Boulevard as a late winter storm dropped up to a foot of snow Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Denver. Forecasters predict that the storm will persist until early Friday, snarling traffic along Colorado's Front Range communities. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A lone vehicle moves eastbound along normally-conggested Speer Boulevard as a late winter storm dropped up to a foot of snow Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Denver. Forecasters predict that the storm will persist until early Friday, snarling traffic along Colorado’s Front Range communities. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER (AP) — Thousands in Colorado were without power as authorities closed highways and schools during a winter storm that pummeled the Denver area and threatened to drop another half foot there overnight into Friday.

The storm 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. Earlier this month, a blizzard dumped more than 10 feet (3 meters) of snow on a northern California ski resort.

The Colorado storm shut down a stretch of Interstate 70, the state’s main east-west highway, in the mountains for much of the day Thursday, stranding some drivers for hours, mainly because of trucks that got stuck in the snow, blocking other traffic, authorities said. To try to keep the highway open, no trucks will be allowed on a portion of I-70 from Eagle/Vail to Morrison until noon on Friday.

Multiple routes may be blocked or have delays resulting from crashes, stuck vehicles and other issues.

The storm, which began Wednesday night, delivered the slushy, wet snow typical for March, one of the snowiest months in Denver. The heaviest accumulations were expected in Colorado’s Front Range region, where the eastern plains meet the Rocky Mountains and the vast majority of the state’s population lives. Most of the snow was falling in the foothills west of Denver.

Those higher elevations had up to 3 feet (91 centimeters) of snow by Thursday and more than another foot (30 centimeters) was forecast by Friday morning. Denver itself got up to about 9 inches (23 centimeters) by Thursday. Another 3 to 7 inches (8 to 18 centimeters) was expected in the Denver area by Friday morning.

While a boon to Colorado’s ski industry, the extreme conditions shut down several ski resorts. The storm also closed numerous schools and government offices Thursday and Denver area schools were closed in advance for Friday.

More than 18,800 customers were without power across Colorado late Thursday primarily in metro Denver and along the Front Range, according to poweroutage.us.

But plenty of people were enjoying the snow, like Melanie Brooks, who 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.

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

Jarmila Schultz 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,” the 77-year-old 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.”

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 but 830 flights were canceled Thursday with nearly 440 more delayed, according to Flightaware.com.

AP U.S. News

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