Snowy storm rolls in

Snowfall expected through Tuesday

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A heavy snowstorm Friday kept snowplows busy, drivers cautious, airplanes circling and skiers happy.

One American Airlines flight from Chicago and three United Express flights from Denver into Yampa Valley Regional Airport were cancelled Friday because of low visibility and heavy turbulence caused by the storm, airline officials said. Several planes that were able to land first had to circle YVRA, waiting for the snow to let up enough so pilots could have the half-mile of visibility needed to touch down.

Four inches of snow had fallen at the Steamboat Ski Area by noon Friday, but the heaviest snow began later. About 7 inches of new snow had fallen on the mountain by Friday afternoon, ski area spokesman Mike Lane said.

And Friday's snow was just the beginning.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction predicts snow will continue to fall until Tuesday.

A jet stream from the southwest is bringing moisture from the Pacific Ocean across the United States and could drop 2 feet of snow on the Yampa Valley between Friday and Sunday, meteorologist Jim Daniels of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction said Friday.

"We're predicting 10 to 20 inches, but southwest-facing slopes may get 2 feet or more," Daniels said.

Accompanying the snow, heavy winds gusted through Routt County, blowing from 30 to 40 mph in the valley and as fast as 60 mph at times on Storm Peak, Lane said. The gondola had to shut down several times Friday because of 40 mph winds, Lane said, but it didn't stop powder hounds.

"Anytime it snows, it's awesome," Lane said. "And a system like this is good for everybody. The skiing has been phenomenal. Last week, snow was pretty dry. This storm seems a little wetter, but any snow is good snow."

While any snow is good snow on the mountain, the amount that fell on the road Friday was not good for drivers.

By 5 p.m. Friday, 10 traffic accidents had been reported in Steamboat Springs. No one was injured, and no major damage was reported in any of the wrecks; almost all were caused by people driving too fast for the conditions, said Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing said.

"With four-wheel drive, you can drive really fast," Fiebing said. "The only problem is you can't stop really fast."

In Routt County, the Colorado State Patrol handled three accidents, which were not serious, said Jill Sjostrom, communications technician for the CSP Dispatch Center in Craig.

Colorado Department of Transportation snowplows stayed busy throughout the day, overlapping shifts, said Tina Hayes, lead worker at the Steamboat office, which clears U.S. Highway 40 from Milner to the base of Rabbit Ears Pass.

While two trucks usually can handle the load, three were needed per shift Friday, including two sand trucks and one spraying liquid magnesium chloride, Hayes said.

The story was similar in Vail, where 7 inches of snow had fallen at the top of the mountain by Friday afternoon and 10 more were expected overnight. In Vail, the weather caused a number of car accidents and several of 12 scheduled flights into Eagle County Regional Airport had to be diverted to other destinations.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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