Rocky Mountain Storm Drops Heavy Snow

A slow-moving storm dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of Colorado and Wyoming Friday, with up to 3 feet expected in some areas by Saturday night.

The wet, heavy snow closed parts of two interstate highways, canceled flights and injured a snowplow operator in southwest Colorado. The snowy mess also detoured a prisoner convoy headed to Wyoming.

In Wyoming, Interstate 80 was closed from Cheyenne to Rawlins, a distance of 140 miles. Numerous smaller roads were closed in southeastern Wyoming.

Also, a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 25 was closed Friday from Wellington, Colo., to Cheyenne.

There were no immediate reports of interstate injuries caused by the weather, but a snow plow driver received minor injuries when he lost control of his plow on Thursday in southwestern Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Transportation snow plow driver, Dack Klein, was hurt before dawn Thursday while clearing snow on U.S. 550 in Ouray. Klein's plow rolled one and a quarter times down a snowpacked embankment on Red Mountain, and he was briefly trapped. A motorist freed him, and Klein was treated and released with what officials called minor injuries.

Snow was also blamed for halting 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.

"It's always those last 200 miles," Voigtsberger told The (Fort Collins) Coloradoan.

Denver and Colorado Springs were expecting 10 to 20 inches of snow by Saturday night. Forecasters called for more than 2 feet of snow in mountain towns higher than 6,000 feet.

"At this point, we are anticipating about 6 to 12 inches of snow in Denver by Saturday morning. This could be more if the storm lingers over the area for longer than the models are currently showing. Or temperatures drop a little bit later this afternoon," said 7NEWS Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson.

Parts of central and southern Wyoming were under a winter storm warning. Federal courts and city offices were among the closures in Cheyenne, where at least 14 inches were predicted.

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.

The storm was enough to worry Kim Fanning of Denver, who opted to take the bus to the Denver airport for a Friday flight she hoped to make to Las Vegas. Fanning, 23, left hours early for an afternoon flight but hoped the precipitation would stay mostly rain, as it was outside the downtown Denver bus station where she waited for the bus.

Fanning said she was surprised, but only a little, by the spring storm.

"I grew up here, so it's odd that it's snowing right now in Colorado. But not too odd," Fanning said with a smile.

The heavy, wet snow caused some scattered power outages as lines sagged. It also caused Douglas County schools and Jefferson County mountain schools to close early as conditions worsened.

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