A historic blizzard that blasted Colorado on Sunday dumped 2 feet of snow in the Denver area, knocked out power to tens of thousands of people, stranded others in their vehicles, shut down major roadways and will leave many schools and government offices closed Monday.
The weekend snowstorm became the fourth-largest ever recorded in Denver with 24.1 inches of snow at the city’s official measurement point at Denver International Airport as of 6 p.m. Sunday — with snow still expected to fall for several more hours.
That total just beat the 23.8 inches of snow that fell on Denver in December 1982, and is the city’s biggest snowfall since 31.8 inches fell in March 2003.
“This has definitely been a historic storm,” said Alan Reppert, senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. “Definitely something that we can thankfully look at as a very rare occurrence.”
While snow began falling Saturday night, the storm reached blizzard conditions around noon Sunday, said meteorologist Jim Kalina with the National Weather Service in Boulder. That means as the snow fell, winds accelerated to at least 35 mph and reduced visibility beyond a quarter mile for longer than three hours.
Kalina expected those blizzard conditions to continue until about midnight Sunday. In that time he anticipated another 2 to 5 inches of snowfall in the metro area.
Totals around the rest of the metro area included 16 inches elsewhere in Denver, 24 inches in Arvada and 23.1 inches in Aurora and nearly 20 inches in Boulder, according to National Weather Service records. Colorado’s ski towns saw between 3 and 16 inches of snow, early weather reports showed.
Reppert noted that Nederland reported about 36 inches of snowfall and that some areas will likely “see close to 40 inches by the time it’s all said and done.”
The blizzard led Denver Public Schools and many other metro area districts — including Douglas County, Adams 12, Cherry Creek and Littleton — to declare snow days on Monday, while a smaller number, such as Jeffco Public Schools, announced students would take remote-learning classes for the day.
A full list of school closures can be found at denverpost.com.
Snowfall was forecast to continue into early Monday morning, stopping around 5 a.m., Kalina said. Temperatures likely will hit a high of 37 during the day Monday and drop to the low 20s during the night.
Airlines canceled hundreds of flights scheduled to leave DIA on Sunday as the storm intensified, though about 10 planes did manage to take off early in the morning. By midday, the airport shut down all six runways due to blowing snow and poor visibility, though the terminal and concourses remained open to passengers.
And late in the afternoon, DIA officials asked people not to attempt to drive to the airport, declaring Peña Boulevard impassable with multiple vehicle stranded along the roadway.
Early in the day, the wet, heavy snowfall forced officials to close multiple stretches of Interstate 70 and 25 near Denver, far out on the Eastern Plains and in northern Colorado leading up to the Wyoming border.
For every truck AAA Colorado had out on the road Sunday afternoon there were eight calls for emergency service, spokesman Skyler McKinley said in a tweet. In addition to that, at least four of the organization’s trucks had to be rescued as well.
News: Just got word we’re getting 8 calls for emergency service for every 1 truck we’ve got on the road. What’s more, 4 of our own trucks are in the process of getting rescued. You know it’s not safe to drive if even the AAA trucks are getting stuck. Don’t drive! #cowx
— Skyler McKinley (@SkylerMcKinley) March 14, 2021
“You know it’s not safe to drive even if the AAA trucks are getting stuck,” McKinley wrote.
Sheriff’s deputies in Weld County — hit hard by snow and wind — rescued at least six stranded drivers by early Sunday afternoon, including the driver of a tractor-trailer that tipped over.
Weld County Sheriff Joe Moylan said that while his deputies used a military surplus transport vehicle during the rescues, even that 25-ton, mine-resistant vehicle needed the help of a Colorado Department of Transportation plow to reach stranded drivers. Visibility fell as low as 7 feet, he said, forcing deputies to respond only to life-or-death calls at the time.
“The wind is as bad as the snow is, there’s almost no visibility out there,” Moylan said during the storm.
At the same time, hundreds of power outages across the metro area and northern Colorado left tens of thousands of Xcel Energy customers without electricity. As of 6:30 p.m., 24,437 customers were without power, largely around Greeley, according to Xcel’s website. Jefferson County — mostly Westminster and Arvada — and Larimer County saw thousands without power during the day as well.
Heavy snow, high winds, snapped utility poles and more caused the outages and more than 600 people worked to restore power, an Xcel spokeswoman told The Denver Post. In total more than 152,000 customers experienced an outage of some kind, though many included momentary disruptions lasting just a few seconds.
The outage lasted for hours for Caroline Maxwell and her three sons, however. She said the family lost power around 8 a.m. and kept themselves busy while her husband, who works in the oil and gas industry, was out clearing sites from the snow.
The family lives on the west side of Johnstown and Maxwell said she wasn’t sure when power would come back on. She gave thanks that nobody in her family had a medical condition that required electricity to stay healthy and she stocked up on meat and dairy before the snow started falling.
“I don’t think anybody can say they didn’t expect this or weren’t warned for the storm,” Maxwell said.
While many awaited the return of their electricity, others prepared to stay at home Monday as many school districts and government offices announced they would close due to the weather. The Colorado Legislature called Monday off, and all state government offices in Denver and throughout the metro area will be closed, too.
Northglenn, Longmont, Commerce City and Arapahoe County were among the municipalities announcing closures of their government offices on Monday.
Due to inclement weather, the House will not convene tomorrow, Monday March 15.
Stay safe and avoid travel if at all possible!#COPolitics
— COHouseDems (@COHouseDem) March 14, 2021
This content was originally published here.