Tuesday, April 09, 2013 9:31 pm
Spring storm delivers snow, winds; delays travel
By BOB MOENAssociated Press
In Wyoming, some big stretches of Interstates 25 and 80 were closed for parts of the day, and blowing snow made driving dangerous along other highways. No unnecessary travel was advised Tuesday afternoon on about 180 miles of I-25 between Cheyenne and Casper because heavy snow was causing near whiteout conditions.
"We haven't really had bad days like today where everybody is stuck and nobody can go anywhere," said Sam Blaney, who was working the service counter at the Petro truck stop in Laramie.
About two dozen truckers and other motorists had taken refuge at the truck stop to wait out the storm, Blaney said.
Eastbound I-80 from Cheyenne to Big Springs, Neb., was closed Tuesday night. Wyoming transportation officials said their Nebraska counterparts had warned it could be midday Wednesday before the stretch reopens.
Meanwhile, freezing rain, snow and strong winds, were hitting Kansas and South Dakota, where numerous local elections were postponed. Some schools in Minnesota dismissed students early as travel conditions deteriorated.
I-90 was closed between Rapid City and Sioux Falls, S.D., as driving conditions deteriorated, with zero to near-zero visibility and snowy, icy roads.
Strong winds also caused 21 train cars to derail in eastern Nebraska early Tuesday west of North Bend, Union Pacific railroad spokesman Mark Davis said. No injuries were reported.
About 6.5 inches of snow fell at Denver International Airport, which was on the lower end of forecasts. Nearly 500 flights were canceled there, and deicing was delaying departures.
Flights bound for Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, meanwhile, were being delayed an average of nearly four hours because of dense fog.
While April snowstorms aren't unusual in Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West, the storm comes after a rather tame winter in many areas.
Many areas of Wyoming and western Nebraska received more than a foot of snow. In western Nebraska, road crews reported 8- to 9-foot drifts.
"I'm pretty confident that this particular storm is more widespread and has caused more travel problems and closures than any storm we've had this calendar year certainly," said Bruce Burrows, spokesman for the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
As the storm moved into Colorado on Monday night, two tornadoes were reported near Akron on eastern Colorado's plains, though forecasters had not confirmed the twisters. A trailer home rolled over onto its top, a roof blew off a barn and six power poles were toppled, Washington County undersheriff Jon Stivers said.
A motorcycle dealership partially collapsed in Pueblo, Colo., where winds gusted to 64 mph.
In Wyoming's Sweetwater County, wind gusts up to 71 mph damaged a marina at Flaming Gorge Reservoir and broke windows at the Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, according to the National Weather Service.
About 1,200 customers in Rock Springs lost power Monday afternoon after winds broke a cross-arm at the top of a power pole. Some residents in Lamont, a small town north of Rawlins, were without power Tuesday. Repair crews used snowcats to access the downed lines, Rocky Mountain Power Company spokesman Jeff Hymas said.
In southwest Colorado, the La Plata Electric Association said nearly 1,000 customers lost power during the day, some for up to two hours, after wet snow downed some wires.
Cold temperatures that made it feel more like January or February engulfed the entire state with many areas expecting daytime temperatures in the teens and 20s.
The National Weather Service said Cheyenne's high of 12 degrees Tuesday was the coldest on record for April 9. The previous record was 23 degrees set in 1997.
The same storm system toppled trees in San Francisco, produced gusts over 80 mph in southern California, fanning wildfires, and kicked up a dusty haze in Phoenix on Monday, closing a stretch of I-40 in northern Arizona.
Associated Press writers Colleen Slevin and Alexandra Tilsley contributed to this report from Denver.