Blizzard update: Colo. 14 closed, more than 40 people and two dogs taken to shelter Wednesday – Greeley Tribune

9 a.m. Thursday — Rural areas across Weld County, apart from the northwestern quarter of the county, still have very bad road conditions, said Jay McDonald, Weld County Public Works director. Drivers are experiencing drifts from 3-8 feet high.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has just closed Colo. 14 between Fort Collins and Sterling, a 100-mile stretch of road.

8:25 a.m. Thursday — Although exact counts of crashes and stranded motorists are difficult to compile, Matthew Turner, spokesman for the Weld County Sheriff’s Office, compiled the following estimates of crashes and people in need of shelter in the county in the last 24 hours:

  • 18 crashes with unknown injuries
  • 17 crashes without injuries
  • One hit and run crash
  • One crash with injuries
  • 50 citizen assists
  • 42 people and two dogs taken to shelters.

8:15 a.m. Thursday — Garden City Municipal Court is canceled Thursday. The court typically opens at 1 p.m., and all cases scheduled for today have been rescheduled for April 11.

For more information, or for questions, go to www.townofgardencity.com or call (970) 351-0041.

8:05 a.m. Thursday — New Liberty Road remains closed in Windsor from 7th Avenue to Weld County Road 13 in Windsor.

Snow
continues to drift in places, but crews are working throughout Windsor to plow
the roads, according to a news release from the town.

Windsor
asks everyone not to pass plows on the roads, and to drive with caution.

7:55 a.m. Thursday — Lt. Greg Cobb, deputy fire marshal with the Greeley Fire Department, said the department responded to about 20 slide-offs during the height of the storm Wednesday.

The Greeley Police Department is reporting about the same.
Sgt. Joe Tymkowych, of the Greeley Police Department, said the department
responded to about 21 crashes, five of them with minor injuries. Most were
weather-related.

That’s about what emergency response crews expect from
storms like the one that blew through Greeley and much of Colorado yesterday,
said Cobb.  

The fire department prepared for the storm by adding two
extra units Wednesday morning, and placing them strategically in the city.

Responses during a storm like Wednesdays are slower, Cobb,
said, because the crews have to arrive safely.

“It’s either that or not arrive at all, which isn’t an
option,” he said.

Inside the city was fairly calm, Cobb said, and the bulk of
the crashes were outside the city where the wind was stronger.

Greeley remains on accident alert Thursday morning,
Tymkowych said.

6:55 a.m. Thursday — Weld County government offices will remain closed Thursday, according to a news release from the county, although last night the county expected they would open.

While all county trucks are out working to clear roads, many are expected to remain snow packed and icy with drifts. Abandoned and stuck vehicles are making road-clearing operations challenging, according to the county’s latest snow update.

6:30 a.m. Thursday — Boys & Girls Clubs of Weld County will be closed Thursday.

6:15 a.m. Thursday — Travel in rural areas of Weld County is not recommended Thursday morning.

Weld County Public Works Director Jay McDonald said winds are still causing severe drifting in some areas.

Road closures, he said, remain the same this morning:

  • O Street from 11th Avenue to 35th Avenue (drifts)
  • Weld County Road 70 from Weld 41 to Weld 43 (power lines)
  • U.S. 34 from Weld 49 to Wiggins
  • New Liberty Road in Windsor from 7th Street to Weld County Road 13 (stuck cars)

12:30 a.m. Thursday — The Denver International Airport opened four of its six runways, and officials say crews are working to ensure all six of the airport’s runways are open and operating Thursday, a day after a massive blizzard struck northern Colorado and the Front Range.

Still, the airport has already canceled 662 flights for Thursday after canceling 1,400 flights Wednesday due to the weather. On Wednesday, all of the airport’s six runways were shut down. Those traveling Thursday are encouraged to check with their airline to confirm flight status and to arrive athe airport at least two hours before their flight, according to a news release from DIA.

Officials recommend checking www.FlyDenver.com to check flight statuses, security screening wait times and information about parking lots.

Denver International Airport (Flydenver.com)

11:15 p.m. Wednesday — The city of Evans announced late Wednesday that its offices would re-open at 8 a.m. Thursday after closing government offices at 10 a.m. Wednesday due to the blizzard. Of note, municipal court is canceled on Thursday, according to a news release from the city. Residents who needed to be in court Thursday are asked to call (970) 475-1123.

9:35 p.m. Wednesday — Weld County government offices are set to open at 10 a.m. Thursday, a delayed start owed to the blizzard conditions from Wednesday, according to a news release from the county.

7-8 p.m. Wednesday — A number of schools have announced they will remain closed Thursday after a brutal blizzard pounded the Front Range. The following schools have announced Thursday closures:

  • Aims Community College
  • Johnstown-Milliken Re-5J School District
  • Windsor Re-4 School District
  • Eaton Re-2 School District
  • Pawnee Re-12 School District
  • Weld Central Re-3J School District
  • Fort Lupton Re-8 School District

Greeley-Evans School District 6 and the University of Northern Colorado are on spring break.

6:10 p.m. Wednesday — Gov. Jared Polis late Wednesday declared an emergency due to the blizzard, activating the Colorado National Guard for search and rescue operations, according to a news release from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The National Guard will work with the State Office of Emergency Management, local county EMS and law enforcement to conduct search, rescue and life safety operations primarily focused on stranded motorists, according to the release.

“Stay home or shelter in place,” state officials advised. “Do not drive if you don’t have to in these areas. If you are stranded, please call 911 and provide dispatch operators with as much information about your location as possible.”

Snow plows roll down 16th Street in Greeley Wednesday morning Mar., 13, 2019 as blizzard conditions swept through Weld County. (mbrian/mbrian@greeleytribune.com)

Residents should expect prolonged road closures as first responders work to clear vehicles. Among the closures:

  • I-25 from Monument to south of Denver will be closed through the night.
  • I-25 from Wellington to Wyoming closed through the night
  • I-70 east of Denver to Kansas is closed, as well as most roads in the eastern plains, will remain closed overnight through mid-day tomorrow.
  • Colo. 287 from Ted’s Place to the Wyoming state line is also closed through the night.
  • Weld County Road 70 from Weld 41 to Weld 43 (power lines)
  • U.S. 34 from Weld 49 to Wiggins
  • O Street from 11th Avenue to 35th Avenue (drifts)

The most impacted areas of the state in terms of stranded motorists is along I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock, state officials said during a media call Wednesday night. The Palmer Divide area has been home to up to 200 stranded motorists at one point, and the National Guard is working with local law enforcement there to take drivers to safety, officials said.

Weld County Emergency Management Director Roy Rudisill said
Weld County has not had need for the National Guard yet, but the county has
deployed the Sheriff’s Office’s six-wheel MRAP military-style vehicle to burst
through snow drifts, particularly in the eastern part of the county.

Looking north on 95th Avenue as the ”bomb cyclone” creates havoc in western Greeley on March 13, 2019.

In Weld, at least 10 people have been rescued from stranded
vehicles. Those people were taken to the Southeast Weld Fire Station 1 in
Keenesburg, one of three emergency shelters in operation Wednesday. The others
were the Ault Fire Department and the Federick-Firestone Fire Administration
Building off of I-25.

Rudisill, along with other emergency managers, news
organizations and residents, had trouble with Facebook on Wednesday, which
hampered Weld County’s ability to communicate with residents.

5:25 p.m. Wednesday — There are numerous power outages in northern Colorado, but have so far impacted a relatively small number of people. About 2,000 customers for Xcel have been impacted by about 12 outages, according to the company’s outage map. The largest impacts are being felt in Eaton, about 10 miles north of Greeley, where 531 customers have been impacted by an outage.

4:45 p.m. Wednesday — Snow totals in Greeley have reached nearly 4 inches, and several areas in Weld County have experienced 50-55 mph wind gusts during a Wednesday blizzard.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina said Greeley has received 3.7 inches, more than Fort Collins’ 3.2 but far lower than Firestone’s 8 inches in southern Weld County.

Erie (4.5 inches) and Thornton (4.3) also received a good bit of snow, but the heaviest snow — 10-18 inches — fell in the foothills of the Front Range, Kalina said.

Kalina said the worst of the blizzard is over, and the National Weather Service is expecting light snow the rest of the night, with accumulation of less than 1 inch in Greeley and surrounding areas. The wind will stay with us, ranging from 50-60 mph, Kalina said.

On Thursday, forecasts call for winds in the 45 mph range, with a high of 34 degrees and an overnight low of 10 degrees.

Kalina rattled off a number of areas that have recorded winds exceeding 50 mph in Weld County, including Greeley, Garden City, Lucerne, Johnstown and throughout the I-25 corridor.

The winds, Kalina said, are owed to an extremely low-pressure system hovering over southwest Kansas. With a high pressure system northwest of Colorado, the winds become fierce as the atmosphere seeks equilibrium. This wind map provides a clearer picture:

4:15 p.m. Wednesday — A Colorado State Patrol trooper was killed Wednesday morning after being struck by a vehicle while out of his patrol car.

Corp. Daniel Groves, 52, was on scene about 11:20 a.m. on westbound Interstate 76 near Roggen for a vehicle that slid off the roadway when a 2001 Volvo driven by John Carpenter, 58, of Centennial, lost control and hit Groves outside of his patrol vehicle, according to a Colorado State Patrol news release.

Groves was taken to Platte Valley Regional Medical Center in Brighton, but was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. High speed in poor driving conditions is being investigated as a possible cause in the crash, according to the release.

The case is under investigation.

Groves started with the patrol in 2007.

3:20 p.m. Wednesday — Windsor-Severance Fire Protection District Operations Chief Mike Blackwill said Windsor has had a couple of downed trees, including a pretty large one shortly after 3 p.m., but neither caused any damage. Blackwill said the fire department has dealt with a few crashes, but none of those have been serious.

“Five O’clock will be the real test,” Blackwill said. “That’s when people start heading home.”

3 p.m. Wednesday — Weld County snowplows are getting back on the road, but taking it slow amid whiteout conditions. The county’s 20 plows had pulled over to wait for winds to die down earlier Wednesday.

Weld County Public Works Director Jay McDonald said the conditions are going back and forth.

“All of our drivers are experienced, and they know they need to slow down a little bit,” McDonald said.

Weld County Sheriff’s deputies and city of Greeley firefighters work a vehicle crash at the intersection of Highway 34 and 11th Avenue in Greeley on March 13, 2019. (Louis Amestoy/Greeley Tribune)

2:35 p.m. Wednesday — UCHealth outpatient clinics are closing early, but hospitals and emergency rooms will remain open.

Patients are encouraged to reschedule appointments, or to call if they have not heard from UCHealth.

The storm progresses outside the Greeley Tribune Wednesday, March 13. (Emily Wenger/ewenger@greeleytribune.com)

2:15 p.m. Wednesday — Greeley-Evans Transit announced it will stop all fixed route services at 2:30 p.m., but Call-N-Ride will be available until 6:30 p.m.

Call Call-N-Ride at (970) 350-9290 if you need a ride home.

2 p.m. Wednesday — All Weld County snowplows are off the road, having pulled over because of unsafe, whiteout conditions, Weld County Public Works Director Jay McDonald confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

The county has a standing rule, for driver safety, that drivers pull over and wait out the wind if there is little to no visibility on the roads.

All of the county’s 20 snowplows are off the road at this point, McDonald said, meaning the whiteout conditions are present across the large county.

Looking east on 6th Street near downtown Greeley as the first blizzard of 2019 rakes Weld County on March 13, 2019. (Louis Amestoy/Greeley Tribune)

1:50 p.m. Wednesday — A crash involving multiple cars has closed eastbound U.S. 34 between Colo. 257 and 95th Avenue in Greeley.

The Greeley Police Department Tweeted about the crash, and asked everyone to stay inside if possible.

About 10-15 cars were involved, including a Greeley police vehicle, said Cmdr. Scott Smith. The officer’s vehicle was rear-ended, but the officer was not injured.

Traffic was moving eastbound when the crash occurred, Smith said, and it was clearly weather-related.

No injuries were reported.

12:20 p.m. Wednesday — An 80 mph wind gust was reported at the Denver International Airport at 11:44 a.m., according to the National Weather Service, which the weather service reports is equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane.

12:15 p.m. Wednesday — Xcel Energy reports about 57 customers are experiencing power outages in La Salle, and three outages are being reported in Greeley.

11:45 a.m. Wednesday — Road conditions in the Greeley area have gone from “windy” to “icy,” according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A screenshot of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s map of current road conditions. Blue indicates ice, and red indicates a closure.

11:25 a.m. Wednesday — Greeley is now on accident alert, joining a variety of other local agencies on accident alert, according to a news release from the Greeley Police Department.

Snow is blowing as it falls Wednesday morning outside the Greeley Tribune. (Emily Wenger/ewenger@greeleytribune.com)

11:15 a.m. Wednesday — The Weld County Sheriff’s Office and the Windsor, Evans, Kersey, Eaton and Lochbuie police departments are all on accident alert, according to Weld County Dispatch.

When on accident alert, agencies ask those involved in a crash with minor damage, no injuries and no suspected drug or alcohol involvement, to exchange information and file a report with their local law enforcement agencies.

11 a.m. Wednesday — Blowing snow continues to fall in Greeley, and the Colorado Department of Transportation is reporting high winds on Weld County roads.

I-25 is closed north of Wellington to the Wyoming state line, and Colo. 287 is closed north of Ted’s Place to the Wyoming state line.

The Human Bean reported on Facebook all its locations closed at 10:30 a.m. today, and the business will update its Facebook page if they will reopen tomorrow.

10 a.m. Wednesday — Snow is now falling and the moisture on the ground is starting to freeze.

The city of Evans announced its government offices closed at 10 a.m., and will later determine if the offices will re-open Thursday. Evans Government Offices Closed at 10am

For more information about the city of Evans, call (970) 475-1170, email info@evanscolorado.gov or follow the city on Twitter.

8:40 a.m. Wednesday — Weld County tweeted its government offices will close at noon.

The Greeley Downtown Rotary Club has also cancelled today’s meeting.

7:20 a.m. Wednesday — Several school districts in Weld County are closed today, including the Greeley-Evans School District 6 offices and facilities, some of which remained open although students are on spring break.

Yesterday, the Windsor-Severance Re-4, Eaton Re-2 and Johnstown-Milliken Re-5J school districts announced they would be closing for the day. Our partners at Denver7 report the Valley Re-1, Weld Central Re-3J and Fort Lupton Re-8 are also closed.

7:10 a.m. Wednesday — The Colorado Department of Revenue announced several driver license offices will be closed today due to the impending storm, including the Greeley office.

6:20 a.m. Wednesday — Rain has started in Greeley and will increase in intensity as the morning goes on, according to the National Weather Service. The rain is expected to transition to snow in the late morning. There is a blizzard warning in effect from 10 a.m. until midnight Wednesday.

11:30 p.m. Tuesday — Colorado State Patrol trooper Josh Lewis said he’s hopeful the weather forecast calling for a “bomb blizzard” is overblown, but in the event the most dire predictions come true, Lewis had the following words of advice in a late Tuesday phone call with The Tribune:

“Stay home,” Lewis said. “Ultimately, if you don’t have to go out, don’t go out. If you have to go out, be prepared to go extremely slowly and have a lot of patience.”

10:20 p.m. Tuesday — The city of Greeley is not taking any chances with the storm and is closing city offices and non-emergency services ahead of Wednesday’s potential blizzard. From a news release:

“In the interest of public safety, City of Greeley officials are closing City offices, facilities, and services on Wednesday, March 13 due to the impending storm. Facilities that are not providing essential services will be closed and personnel assigned to these facilities and services are asked to stay home.”

The City’s Public Works, Police, Fire Department and all other personnel whose responsibilities are related to public safety and the storm will remain on duty. Greeley-Evans Transit will be operating but may be delayed due to road conditions. Please plan travel early in the day as service schedules could be reduced.

It is highly recommended that people limit time outdoors and driving during the storm to help the City’s Public Works crews and emergency services manage urgent concerns.

Closures Include: 

City Hall, 1000 10th Street

City Center North, 1100 10th Street

City Center South, 1001 11th Avenue,

Municipal Court, 1001 11th Avenue

Greeley Recreation Center, 651 10th Avenue 

Family FunPlex, 1501 65th Avenue

 Greeley Ice Haus, 900 8th Avenue

Rodarte Community Center, 920 A Street

Greeley Active Adult Center, 1501 65th Avenue

 Public Works Administrative Building, 1001 9th Ave

9:52 p.m. Tuesday — Weather forecasters across the region are describing the impending storm as a “Bomb Cyclone,” where the pressure of the storm is expected to drop in a manner comparable to Category 2 hurricane. Here’s how the website Earther describes the potential storm:

As the storm pushes inland, its pressure—which drops as storms get stronger—is expected to dip into the range of 970 millibars. That’s roughly on par with an average Category 2 Atlantic hurricane and could challenge the all-time low pressure record for Kansas.

Others are describing the storm as one of the most powerful to hit the state in years — if not ever. The National Weather service told Colorado Public Radio that the storm will vary in different parts of the state, but high winds could cause major problems.

Denver-area television stations were providing these graphics to illustrate the potential power of the storm.

Of course not everyone was impressed with the forecasts.

9:51 p.m. Tuesday — The National Weather Service is starting to track rainfall across the Interstate 25 corridor.

8:15 p.m. Tuesday — Snowfall totals, according to the National Weather Service could hit 7 inches, but some Denver television stations are predicting more. Here’s a look at the NWS forecast for Greeley and outlying communities.

7:56 p.m. Tuesday — Gov. Jared Polis issued a statement ahead of Wednesday’s storm to urging residents to be cautious.

“Our abundance of snow is part of the reason why we all love living in Colorado, but winter weather still presents a serious danger in certain situations,” Polis said. “Given the expected severity of tomorrow’s storm, I urge all Coloradans to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe, and continue to monitor the CDOT website and twitter account for updates.”

5:29 p.m. Tuesday — The Colorado Department of Transportation issued travel advisories for the region ahead of Wednesday’s major storm. From CDOT: CDOT warns motorists that they may encounter delays and road closures due to anticipated 60-70 mph winds and white out conditions. The emphasis shifts to the northeast plains for Wednesday night into Thursday night. High winds, at up to 70 mph gusts, and solid snowfall rates will cause blizzard conditions through Thursday night. Main impacts for blizzard conditions look to be I-25 north from north Denver to Wyoming state line, I-76 from Fort Morgan to Nebraska state line, and I-70 east from Limon to Kansas state line.

5:15 p.m. Tuesday — The University of Northern Colorado announced that it will close in anticipation of Wednesday’s storm. While the university is on spring break this week, all events scheduled for Wednesday have been cancelled or postponed. For more information visit the UNC website: https://emergency.unco.edu/

The National Weather Service in Cheyenne describes the potential storm impact in historic terms.

3:45 p.m. Tuesday — The Eaton Re-2 School District and Johnstown-Milliken Re-5J School District will also close all schools and cancel programs and activities Wednesday in anticipation of the storm expected to hit northern Colorado.

The National Weather Service issued these warnings:

Here’s how Denver Ch. 7 weather forecaster Mike Nelson illustrated the storm’s development:

Colorado State Patrol recommended in a Tweet that everyone who can should work from home Wednesday.

3:15 p.m. Tuesday — The Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District announced Tuesday afternoon it will close its schools and cancel programs and activities Wednesday.

A blizzard warning will be in effect from 10 a.m. Wednesday until midnight Wednesday night, according to the National Weather Service, and forecasters predict anywhere from 3-9 inches for Greeley.

According to an email to parents and a Facebook post from the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District, the district will re-assess after the storm arrives to determine if any more schools or classes will be cancelled.

The Greeley-Evans School District 6 is currently on spring break.

https://www.greeleytribune.com/news/windsor-severance-school-district-to-close-in-anticipation-of-wednesday-storm/

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