U.S. Highway 40 was closed from Rabbit Ears Pass to the Utah border Monday evening because of heavy snow and blizzard conditions.

File photo

U.S. Highway 40 was closed from Rabbit Ears Pass to the Utah border Monday evening because of heavy snow and blizzard conditions.

Storm forces road closures

Hundreds of motorists stranded between Steamboat and Craig

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— Hundreds of motorists were caught in whiteout conditions between Steamboat Springs and Craig early Monday evening. The severe weather forced the temporary closure of U.S. Highway 40 from Rabbit Ears Pass to the Utah border.

Law enforcement officials reported dozens of cars, pickups and semitrailers sliding off roadways throughout Northwest Colorado while the strong Pacific storm blew through the region. No serious injuries were reported, and the highway was reopened to traffic between Steamboat Springs and Craig at about 8:45 p.m.

Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale reported treacherous driving conditions during the height of the storm.

"It was the worst between Hayden and Steamboat that I've ever seen," Vale said. "It was unbelievable. You could literally not see two feet in front of you."

"It's a whole lot worse as you head west," Elliott reported Monday evening. "You can hardly see the hood of your car."

Vale estimated 500 vehicles traveling between Steamboat and Craig were caught in the storm. Motorists who were between towns were advised to safely proceed to the nearest town to wait out the storm, Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Scott Elliott said.

Stranded motorists began congregating at the Kum & Go in downtown Hayden before officials there opened the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, Vale said.

The closures proved frustrating for many commuters unable to make it home from their jobs in Steamboat Springs. U.S. 40 was closed westbound from the Sleepy Bear Mobile Home Park on the western city limits of Steamboat, meaning residents of the Silver Spur, Steamboat II and Heritage Park subdivisions were prohibited from driving the final couple of miles home until shortly before 9 p.m.

U.S. 40 from Steamboat Springs to Kremmling remained closed later Monday evening. Emergency shelters were being established in Kremmling to handle stranded motorists. Interstate 70 between Georgetown and Silverthorne also was closed Monday evening because of hazardous driving conditions.

Colorado Highway 13 was closed from Rifle to the Wyoming border, and Colo. 14 was closed from Rabbit Ears Pass to Walden. Dangerous driving conditions also were reported along Colo. 131 between Steamboat and Yampa, though the road was not closed. Vale said Colo. 131 would have been closed had there been enough officials to close the road.

Vale and Elliott didn't know of any significant accidents or injuries that resulted from the weather.

"It just seemed to be a lot of delays, and that's a good thing," Vale said.

Vale reported about 100 passengers stranded at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, though it was hoped that a United Express flight still would take off for Denver late Monday evening.

Agencies that worked the closures Monday included Colorado State Patrol, Routt County Sheriff's Office, Steamboat Springs Police Department, Hayden Police Department, Oak Creek Police Department, West Routt Fire Rescue, Oak Creek Fire Rescue, Routt County Department of Emergency Management and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"A lot of cooperation has been going on tonight," Vale said.

The snow and blowing snow advisory for Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Craig was set to expire at midnight Monday.

- To reach Brent Boyer, call 871-4221

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Lisa Zirkle 6 years, 10 months ago

The various police and fire personnel who worked the storm were wonderful. Makes me feel good about any tax money they receive!

Thanks to all of them.

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80488mom 6 years, 10 months ago

I agree. I had a sheriff's deputy stop and check on me. I have, seriously, never been so scared in my life. I saw cars that looked like they were going to hit me head on. I'm still traumatized today and borderline tears. Pretty shook up.

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Dave Ege 6 years, 10 months ago

Having moved her from The Red River Valley of North Dakota, I have seen these conditions dozens of times. The closing of the roads was exactly what should have been done. It is much better to be late than to be injured or worse. I was talking to person who was stopped in a line of what he estimated to be 50 cars at the Yellow Jacket / Stagecoach turn off on 131. He said there were idiots who were passing this line of stopped cars in zero visability. This was inviting disaster. I haven't heard yet if there were any accidents but please don't do this. Your spouse or children don't want to lose you due to stupidity or impatience.

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flotilla 6 years, 10 months ago

agreed... I took the stagecoach way home last night about 7:00 and went about 20mph the entire time... no one rode my butt and everyone I saw went slow... except for the idiot in the giant white truck who passed us in a no-pass zone at about 60??? I agree with Dave, why, why why put your fellow citizens, family, etc in danger. 131 should have closed. I haven't seen anything like that in a long time.

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Responder 6 years, 10 months ago

pt22 thank you for the e-mail and phone alert systems. I will sign up for these and check them before I head home during storms. However once I am in the car, I turn off my cell phone as I do not use it while driving, especially during storms, nor do I have a laptop sitting next to me for use. I am aware of weather forecasts on the Denver stations too. Have you witnessed the 2 ft of snow predicted everyday for the last two weeks? We need local reporting. Therefore the radio is the best communication system for alerts. However the 2.5 hrs. I was in the car, I did have the radio on but did not hear any alerts (albeit while I was stuck, the noise level was tremendous and I may have missed it during that time, but is would have been too late at that point.) I have never heard alerts in the past from the radio stations.

I have lived in Colorado all my life and in Steamboat for 15 years. I am very experienced in harsh weather, not any of my emergency gear that I carry with me could let me see the road any better. I could not see the yellow lines on the road or the roadside markers.

I was appauled at the 911 operator's response. My family is very involved in emergency services, from police, paramedic, EMTs and firefighters, I would never lie about someone's actions in such an important role. The first time I called in, the opeartor was very nice and empathetic, the 2nd operator (after I waited patiently for 2 hrs.) said in a very frustrated and rushed tone: "You called in earlier, you have no injuries, you're just going to have to hold on". Click. I never got to say a word to her, they were screening calls and comparing them with prior called in numbers. For all she knew, I could have been hit by another car and tumbled down the embankment, it shouldn't have mattered what I reported earlier.

As far as being prepared - I was. After realizing there would be no help from emergency services, I was beginning to put a plan together, using my equipment I carry in my car, to walk out using the side of a hill (as a last resort) or try to get a ride with someone.

Justares: I am very responsible with my medical situation. I agree that if I have seizures I shouldn't drive. I did give up driving for awhile until they were under control with medication and I have medical certification I could drive. Normal, and even challenging, driving conditions are not a problem. However we endured extreme conditions. It was not the driving intensifying my condition - it was the atmosphere of the iced in tomb with hazard lights reflecting off the wind like a strobe light. This atmosphere would cause some people claustrophobia or even panic attacks - as I believe some have eluded to. That doesn't mean they shouldn't drive because they become terrorized. Fear is fear, and it effects each person differently.

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Responder 6 years, 10 months ago

This was the 2nd time in 2 weeks that we had white out conditions and 131 wasn't closed. Doesn't our safety count just as much as those on highway 40? Why wasn't an annoucement sent out over the radio stations announcing the conditions and recommending no travel. We all know how difficult if not impossible it was to try to turn around. Had I heard that message I wouldn't have even ventured down 131. As it was, I too went off the road, except my situation was even spookier added to the fact that my car slid of the left side of the highway with my headlights facing the oncoming traffic with me just off the left shoulder. Talk about confusing traffice both ways that were trying to judge the road based on my lights. I waited in that sleet covered tomb with no visibility after calling in my situation for 2 and 1/2 hours. I never once saw an emergency vehicle until my son-in-law who is on the fire department saw me on his way home. This was too terryifing. I tried to call 911 a second time to see if the road had been closed because I was thinking about walking the 1/2 mile to the next house as I had to get out of that swirling, noisy tomb. I do have siezures and was running a high risk of having one. When the 911 operator realized I did not have injuries, she immediately hung up on me before I could alert her to my medical condition. Don't they know they are our only life line in that situation? I praise the brave fireman and policeman that put themselves in such danger last night. Doesn't the state patrol understand they can reduce the danger by shutting down the highway?

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flotilla 6 years, 10 months ago

"Colo. 131 would have been closed had there been enough officials to close the road."

Really, what exactly was OC's new chief of harassment doing? And where was his sidekick? Seriously, I would like to know.

Responder, I hear you loud and clear and feel horrible that you were stuck. The 911 operators have hung up on me before too, not counting my situation as an emergency.

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corduroy 6 years, 10 months ago

I was headed home on 131 and 14 last night like everyone else. There were 2 sheriff cars along 131 checking on stopped vehicles and I THINK someone off the road (at least we were stopped for 10-15 minutes entirely) The Oak Creek police are way down in Oak Creek. I'm not sure how bad the roads were in the Canyon, but the stretch to CR 14 was the worst with the snow blowing sideways. Nevermind Routt County is in charge of Routt County roads, not Oak Creek Police.

That aside, it wasn't the most fun drive I've ever had, and I've had worse. I could actually see the yellow center line here and there which made it not so bad, and having all those cars blinking ahead of me :) We all made it!

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dave reynolds 6 years, 10 months ago

Dave Ege..I grew up in eastern Montana so like you have driven in these conditions before but what appaules me is the continous disreguard for other peolpes safety some in Routt County continue to exhibit..if you can not see 10 feet in front of you then why pass..let alone actually go the speed limit..speeding being the norm.............i guess its that SUV mentallity..got news for you four wheel drive or all wheel drive does not make you imune to accidents or going off the road or worse maming or killing someone..oh and one more thing in conditions like we expercienced last nite the more rubber you have on the ICE the worse off you are..I am glad to hear there were no fatalities during this storm cause from these posts and what I saw it could have been alot worse..everyone be safe and think out there..God Bless

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Wendell Day 6 years, 10 months ago

Dear Responder, If i read your post correctly, " I do have siezures and was running a high risk of having one. ", then what are you doing driving a vehicle in the first place? You put more innocent people at risk every time you get behind the wheel of your car than were stuck trying to get home last night. Give up your license, move into town, and take the bus!!! justares

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Brent Boyer 6 years, 10 months ago

All: The text and e-mail breaking news message alert system offered by the Steamboat Pilot & Today (and referenced by pt22 in an above post) is free, and, I think, an incredibly valuable tool for area residents. Registered users of our Web site (which also is free) simply need to scroll to the top of any of our online pages and click on the "E-mail alerts" link at the upper-right corner of the page (just below the weather icon). From there, it's easy to subscribe to the breaking news and weather alert features. Alerts can be received via e-mail, cell phone text, or both. Again, it's free. I commit to only sending out alerts that, in my opinion, are of substantial news value to our readers. Last night's weather and road conditions were a perfect example of how the system can be used to benefit thousands of area residents. If you have any questions about this service, please contact me.

Brent Boyer Editor, Steamboat Pilot & Today (970) 871-4221 bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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madmoores 6 years, 10 months ago

pt22, great post, you are 100% correct. justares, so are you. I was not out in it like some of you were but when the wind hit my house it sounded like the shed from my neighbors yard had been blown into it. Thankfully there were no fatalities as there are quite a few daredevils out there that will never stop pushing that envelope. Glad everyone on here made it home ok.

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blackthroatedwind 6 years, 10 months ago

Geeezusss Kryst justares! Get a life! Keep your smarta** typing fingers off of the keyboard and have some respect. Sheesh! He wasn't driving, he was stuck in a ditch! Get a life and quit judging things you know little about!

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80488mom 6 years, 10 months ago

I have the non emergency number programmed into my cell phone. I prefer to use this number for emergencies that aren't life threatening and have called to report cattle on Hwy 14 more than once. I called at least twice last night and the operator was wonderful. I also had a sheriff stop, roll down his window and ask if I was okay. He also asked if I wanted to follow him. They were out there and they were helpful. I called today to ask them to thank the operator who helped me stay calm. I'm sure they were swamped with calls but I felt they rose to a difficult situation admirably.

I really wish I had know 131 was so horrible. I would have stayed in town as well. I wish they had closed it and not quite sure why it wasn't. I think the storm hit too suddenly.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 10 months ago

mom, you need to have a prescription of valium handy for those tramatic events, like when it snows you can take a handful...........

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justathought 6 years, 10 months ago

flotilla, Why ask where the OCPD was, why don't you ask where your sheriff was, oh that's right, he probably couldn't find a ride. The article says Agencies that worked the closures Monday included Oak Creek Police Department and Oak Creek Fire Rescue, so now you know.

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Responder 6 years, 10 months ago

Mom - I'm with you. Apparently some of these people have never experienced real fear. Aren't they lucky? or perhaps they are the ones speeding and passing, with no regards to real danger or have nothing to lose.

I agree, Oak Creek fire and police were out in full force. However there was no assitance North of their district. Where were the County Sheriff's officers and State Patrol? It sounds like they may have all been on Highway 40.

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flotilla 6 years, 10 months ago

Glad to hear that OC police were out in full force. That is why they there. protect & serve. Thank you!

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