Storm peaks in Steamboat

High winds, drifting snow shuts down Northwest Colorado Friday afternoon

— A fast-moving storm from the northern California coast reached its peak on Friday, pinning down Steamboat Springs and much of Northwest Colorado for most of the morning and afternoon.

Cars were forced to stop in the middle of the road on Rabbit Ears Pass, which closed at about 2 p.m. because of whiteout conditions and didn't reopen until about 6 p.m.

Other drivers had already made their way to the sides of the road or had slid into ditches.

Pictures from the camera trained on the gondola and Headwall area at the Steamboat Ski Area were blurred beyond recognition Friday morning.

The ski area had received 10 inches of new snow at mid-mountain as of 12:30 p.m.

"There was kind of an exodus to the lodges and to the base," said Ryan Morrison, who spent the day snowboarding. Morrison was not really affected by the low visibility, though.

"The snow in the trees was sick," Morrison said. "As the day progressed, it was just getting deeper and better."

Steamboat Springs High School kept its doors closed during lunch to keep students from getting on the roads.

A car full of high school students was involved in an accident earlier in the day; however, there were no injuries, school resource officer Jason Patrick said.

It was one of a half-dozen car accidents that occurred in the city in the early afternoon with no major injuries, Patrick said. One woman was taken to the hospital after slipping in the road.

Assistant High School Principal Mike Knezevich said closing the school's doors for lunch is a rare move for the high school and usually only happens once a year.

Jeremy Bongiorno, an elementary school student, shot baskets in the gym at Steamboat Springs Middle School at 4 p.m. while he waited for his brother to pick him up.

He was the last remaining straggler from a group of students who live on Colorado 131, which was also closed during the afternoon.

The school district moved quickly to alert parents that they would have to pick up their children.

Many of the children boarded a bus that traveled to the base of Rabbit Ears Pass and onto the Whitecotton subdivision.

Many visitors and residents in town were stranded in the valley as no commercial planes left or entered Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden until after 4 p.m. Friday, said Airport Manager Jim Parker.

The storm moved East quickly, said Gary Chancey, a hydro-meteorological technician from the National Weather Service, but in its wake it left almost a foot of new snow in some areas.

Hahn's Peak had 13 inches of new snow Friday morning and received more throughout the day.

The snow and blowing snow advisory was expected to last through the evening in Steamboat, and on Rabbit Ears Pass there was still snow and low visibility Friday night.

By this morning, the storm was expected to be completely gone, though the county is expected to get another storm early next week, Chancey said.

Community comments

Note: The Steamboat Pilot & Today doesn’t necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy.

Post a comment (Requires free registration)

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.