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Winter Storm Closes Roads in the Rockies

From Associated Press

A winter storm packing snow and wind gusts up to 75 mph blew across the Colorado Rockies on Thursday, knocking down trees, causing accidents and closing roads, including the heavily traveled Interstate 70 west of Denver.

Drivers slowed to a crawl on icy, snow-packed roads in the mountains an hour outside Denver. Vehicles slid off the highway near Georgetown and farther west, on Vail Pass, said Eric Escudero of the Colorado Department of Transportation. The pass and Loveland Pass were closed at various times due to weather and accidents.

Linda Rohlinger of Santa Monica left Boulder for Vail about 11 a.m. It took her three hours to travel 60 miles. She and her husband stopped in Georgetown for lunch after inching through traffic at 5 mph.

“I felt like we were on the 405 in Los Angeles,” said Rohlinger, 40. “I’ve been coming up to Colorado for 14 years, and I’ve never seen it like this.”

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At the Eisenhower Tunnel, where I-70 cuts under the Continental Divide, traffic was stopped each hour to let vehicles carrying hazardous materials pass through, while Loveland Pass was closed. Heavy snow was falling on the west side of the tunnel, and the road was icy.

Snow and blowing snow advisories were issued through Monday evening for much of the northern and central mountains. Aspen reported visibility of half a mile as snow fell, the National Weather Service said. Copper Mountain Ski Resort reported 6 inches of new snow in 24 hours Thursday afternoon, and the Loveland ski area at the Continental Divide reported 9 inches.

South of Denver, a wind gust of 75 mph was reported near Chatfield Reservoir as the storm reached the metropolitan area, spitting out rain and snow and sending dust blowing through the streets of downtown. The highest gust at Denver International Airport was 64 mph.

The wind downed several trees in Denver, with one falling on a pickup and some falling onto houses, Denver TV stations reported. Two small chimneys blew off another house.

Back in Georgetown, Rohlinger was getting ready to head back out onto I-70.

“We expected there to be some delay because it’s a holiday weekend and there’s snow, but not as much as we experienced,” she said. “The drive has been beautiful, with the snow on the ground and on the trees, despite the time it’s taking.”


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