Snowstorm causes accidents

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With a winter storm and an Interstate 70 closure, accidents kept the Colorado State Patrol and sheriff's department busy throughout Routt County on Thursday and Friday.

Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Duane Bradley said there were many minor accidents across the county but no major injuries.

The most significant accident occurred when a woman was driving west on U.S. Highway 40 and slid about 250 feet down an embankment near mile marker 141, near the base of Rabbit Ears Pass. The woman was transported to the hospital for observation, Bradley said.

The State Patrol did not have the woman's name or know how the accident occurred.

A rock slide early Thursday morning caused I-70 to close from Gypsum to Glenwood Springs. The closure created a 220-mile detour on U.S. 40 on Rabbit Ears Pass and through Steamboat Springs. Another detour had drivers traveling along Colorado Highway 131.

Local law enforcement officials said the detour caused a high increase in traffic.

By 3:30 p.m. Friday, one lane of traffic heading in each direction was opened on I-70. Chain restrictions also had been lifted for trucks heading over Rabbit Ears Pass, but significant snow remained on county roads, State Patrol Trooper Rick Kasper said.

Routt County Sheriff Sgt. Troy McDaniel said there had been a steady stream of traffic for the past two days, as well as the unusual sight of tractor-trailers parked on the side of the roads for drivers to sleep.

"It was pretty much continuous," McDaniel said about the traffic.

Kasper said the volume of traffic was similar to when I-70 was closed in 2002 because of the wildfires near Glenwood Springs, and it was much higher than the typical Thanksgiving weekend.

Steamboat Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said the detour did not have too many people stopping by for a few runs at the ski area, but the mountain was busy. Lane reported that 14 inches of snow fell in the past two days.

A storm from the Northwest dumped 6 to 10 inches of snow in the northern mountains, said National Weather Service senior forecaster Chris Cuoco. Reports of more than a foot of snow were made in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area and the Flat Tops region.

The storm pulled out of the area Friday afternoon, but Cuoco said residents should expect to see another storm move in this afternoon. A Winter Storm Watch is in effect.

The storm is expected to be stronger than Thursday and Friday's storm, but Cuoco said the center is predicted to be below the Four Corners area.

Places south of I-70 could see a foot or more of snow, and the storm could last until Monday, Cuoco said. Unless the storm moves farther north, Routt County is likely to see amounts of snow similar to Thursday and Friday.

With bad weather predicted, Cuoco advises motorists to drive safely and allow plenty of time to travel.

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