80-Mile Stretch Of I-70 Closed; Shelters Open

Heavy, Wet Snow Blankets Front Range

About 80 miles of Interstate 70 between Golden and Vail is closed because of adverse weather and multiple accidents.

Westbound I-70 at mile marker 259 and eastbound I-70 at mile marker 80 is closed, that's from Vail Pass to Morrison Road.

The Red Cross has opened two shelters in Silverthorne and Frisco in Summit County to help stranded travelers. Shelters were also set up in Idaho Springs and Georgetown. Stranded drivers should call 303-722-7474 for the latest on shelter locations.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has "strongly discouraged" travel between Vail and Denver.

It's not known when I-70 will reopen, but given that crews have to move the stranded cars out of the way and then clear the road of snow and slush, I-70 could potentially be closed for most of the evening.

CDOT is also closing one lane of westbound I-270, just west of Vasquez beginning at approximately 4:30 p.m. and lasting until 7 p.m. for emergency pothole repair.

Highway 91 from Leadville to I-70 is also closed.

Heavy, Wet Snow Blankets Front Range

More than a foot of snow closed other highways and canceled flights in parts of Colorado and Wyoming, snarling traffic and forcing school closures.

Power lines weighed down by snow tripped system circuit breakers and knocked out electricity to 9,600 Xcel Energy customers in Evergreen and 4,600 people in Nederland, 25 miles west and 35 miles northwest of Denver, respectively, said Joe Fuentes, a spokesman for the utility. Some of those customers were expected to be without power overnight.

About 2,600 customers also lost power in Denver.

Up to 3 feet snow was expected by Saturday night in the mountains above 6,000 feet, forecasters said. Nearly 3 feet had already fallen by Friday afternoon in Rocky Mountain National Park about 60 miles northwest of Denver, forcing officials to close its Beaver Meadows and Fall River entrances because snowplows couldn't keep up.

The chilly weather forced a return to heavy coats and snow boots for some who'd already packed away their winter clothes.

"I cannot get used to this snow," said Myra Gonzalez, 25, who moved to Denver from southern California two years ago. She usually drives to work but opted for the bus after seeing heavy flakes outside.

"Now I'm stuck on the bus. I didn't even want to mess with it," the customer-service worker said.

The storm was welcomed at ski areas, though, where the economic downturn has reduced bookings more than 8 percent from last year at some resorts.

On Friday, the slopes were packed with late-season skiers and snowboarders taking their final runs of the season -- most resorts close Sunday.

"This is why we live here, to have the slopes to ourselves in April," said Kristen Petitt, spokeswoman at Colorado's most-visited resort, Breckenridge.

The storm was not without headaches, though. A 140-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and many smaller roads in Wyoming also were closed. A 30-mile stretch of Interstate 25 from Wellington, Colo., to Cheyenne, Wyo., was closed briefly.

The view from Marty Gaither's hotel in Idaho Springs

Mares said multiple crashes had been reported across the state but few involved serious injuries, and only one was fatal. He said a person was killed late Friday afternoon in a two-vehicle crash on Colorado 52 in Weld County, near Fort Lupton. Details on the victim were not immediately available.

U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass, the main road to the Winter Park ski resort, was shut down Friday evening because of a pair of avalanches. Two vehicles and a snow plow got stuck in the second avalanche, but no injuries were reported, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said. Snow from the slide was about 2 feet deep.

The other avalanche left about 6 to 8 feet of snow on the pass, but no cars were on the road at the time, she said.

The agency said Berthoud Pass and Vail Pass would remain closed overnight.

Meanwhile, the American Red Cross was looking for a place to set up a "warming center" -- where travelers could stop to use the restroom and have a snack -- in Idaho Springs after its shelter there filled up. Clear Creek County officials were setting up a separate warming center in Georgetown.

A snow plow driver suffered minor injuries late Thursday when his truck rolled down a snowpacked embankment on Red Mountain in southwestern Colorado. A motorist freed him.

Parts of central and southern Wyoming were under a winter storm warning. Federal courts and city offices were closed in Cheyenne, where at least 14 inches were predicted. The Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne canceled an Earth Day celebration planned for Saturday.

Denver and Colorado Springs were expecting 10 to 20 inches of snow by Saturday night. The American Red Cross Mile High Chapter readied two shelters in Douglas County by Friday afternoon, though they weren't immediately opened.

Many suburban Denver schools sent students home early Friday, and at least three Colorado Springs-area high schools delayed weekend proms because of the storm.

The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley moved its football scrimmage to Tuesday because of snow, while Colorado State University canceled its Saturday spring game.

United Airlines, the dominant carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled 76 flights. The airport urged travelers to check with their airlines before leaving home. A spring storm last month stranded hundreds of passengers overnight.

Snow also delayed a bus convoy carrying 60 prisoners from Oklahoma to Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Corrections said the convoy had to stop a few miles into Wyoming on Thursday night because of traffic backups. The medium-security prisoners were waiting out the storm at a county jail in Laramie before continuing to a state prison in Rawlins, said department spokesman Carl Voigtsberger.

In Texas, thunderstorms moved through northern areas Friday. Thursday night, hail was so heavy in parts of west Texas that a stretch of Interstate 27 was shut down so snowplows could clear it away.

At least four tornadoes touched down in west Texas on Thursday. No injuries were reported.

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