Massive storm closes I-25 and shutters DIA; blizzard warning remains in effect | Colorado Springs News


A late-winter storm halted travel across the Front Range on Sunday, closing Interstate 25 between Colorado Springs and Castle Rock and shutting down all six runways at Denver International Airport.

A blizzard warning was in effect until midnight Sunday for much of Colorado’s Front Range, stretching from northern El Paso County to the Wyoming state line. Sustained winds and wet, heavy snow canceled more than 1,400 flights at DIA and threatened to upend Denver’s one-day snowfall record while tangling traffic on ice-slicked roads across the state.

“Stay put, please,” urged the Colorado State Patrol, which scrambled to keep up with crashes, slide-offs and even overturned snowplows on Interstate 70 west of Denver during the second round of a two-day storm system.

Both lanes of I-70 were closed between Golden and Floyd Hill on Sunday, stranding some ski-country visitors, and one trooper remarked that the snow squall left him unable to see his own road flares at a traffic blockade.

In many places, schools and government offices were closed or put on reduced hours Monday. Although the snow was on course to peter out by Monday morning, drivers were warned to expect perilous commutes due to slick roads.

In the Pikes Peak region, blowing snow and white-out conditions led authorities to close Interstate 25 in both directions between Interquest Parkway in Colorado Springs and Plum Creek Parkway in Castle Rock. Highways 83 and 105 were also closed, blocking travel to the north. No word on a reopening was available as of press time Sunday.

El Paso County’s full complement of 36 plows was active throughout the day, even as authorities cautioned against unnecessary travel. Police in Colorado Springs and Fountain were on accident alert, meaning they responded only to crashes with serious injuries.

Below Pikes Peak, Monument was hit perhaps hardest, falling within the southern tip of a blizzard warning that followed the Rocky Mountains to Wyoming. Blizzards are characterized by blowing snow reducing visibility to ¼-mile or less for three hours or longer, plus sustained winds of at least 35 mph.

Monument and Black Forest received 10 to 16 inches by Sunday evening, while northern Colorado Springs received 6 to 10 inches, according to Eric Petersen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Pueblo. Southern Colorado Springs and Fountain received between 3 and 6 inches.

In the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Teller County communities dodged the blizzard designation even as they received what could be a historic dumping — exceeding 22 inches of accumulation in Woodland Park, by one resident’s measurement.

No snowfall records were available for the area, but this year’s storm left Petersen reaching for a precedent. 

“It’s probably been a few years,” he said. “We had a big storm in 2003 that dumped at least this much or more.”

Although Colorado Springs Utilities had warned of potential disruptions to water and power in the Pikes Peak area, just one water outage affecting a couple dozen people was reported on the utility’s website as of 5 p.m. The Red Cross closed warming shelters in Colorado Springs and Monument on Sunday because they were empty. A third, in Peyton, remained open.

Parts of the Eastern Plains were likewise pummeled. Northeast of Colorado Springs, all Elbert County roads were closed effective at 4 p.m., and the county declared a state of emergency, warning that abandoned vehicles would be moved to aid in snow removal.

Denver’s nearly 2 feet of snow made for one of its biggest snowstorms in years.

“This may end up being the highest one-day total for them,” Petersen said.

Just before noon, Denver International Airport announced it had closed all runways because of blowing snow and low visibility, and all airlines ceased had ceased operations for the day by 5 p.m. More than 1,400 flights were canceled and dozens more delayed, according to flightaware.com

By 6 p.m., nearly all flights at Colorado Springs Airport were listed as canceled — roughly two dozen — and just a handful were operating on time or with delays, according to the city’s website.

The status of air travel at DIA on Monday remains unclear, officials said.

“Airlines have not yet decided on schedules for tomorrow, but delays and some cancellations are expected,” a DIA spokesman said in a written statement. “Passengers are strongly encouraged to check their flight status before coming to the airport tomorrow.”

Gazette editors Tom Roeder and Erin Prater and reporter Hannah Metzger contributed to this story. 



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