No injuries reported

Whiteout storm tests local, regional response teams

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— No injuries resulted from Monday's severe weather that caused whiteout conditions across Routt County, officials said Tuesday.

Hundreds of travelers were stranded Monday night - at locations including Yampa Valley Regional Airport, the Hayden Kum & Go and Routt County Fairgrounds - by the weather and resulting closure of U.S. Highway 40. Blowing wind and snow caused a number of minor accidents across Routt County. U.S. 40 was reopened by 9 p.m. when the worst of the weather was over, and traffic was back to normal by 10:30 p.m., Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said. No injuries were reported during the whiteout, he said.

While more snow is due this week in the Yampa Valley, Monday's severe conditions are not expected to return. A storm system expected to arrive Tuesday night should drop a total of eight to 14 inches of snow in Steamboat Springs before leaving the area late Wednesday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Troy Lindquist.

Though winds are expected to blow out of the southwest at 20 to 30 mph, blowing snow advisories and their accompanying poor visibility is expected to be limited to elevations of about 8,000 feet, Lindquist said.

While U.S. 40 was closed Monday night from Rabbit Ears Pass to the Utah border, Colorado 131 remained open, in part because of limited manpower and at the request of the Colorado Department of Transportation, to allow continued snowplow operations, Vale said.

Officials also took into account that many vehicles on Colo. 131 were traveling no farther than Stagecoach or Oak Creek, and that the secondary artery is less heavily traveled, Vale said.

"Had the storm lasted a little longer, we would've found resources and closed the road," he said. "It's really a logistical issue."

As many as 40 vehicles were stopped or stranded on Colo. 131 near Routt County Road 14 during the storm, said Oak Creek Fire Protection District Chief Chuck Wisecup.

Dispatched originally to respond to a motor vehicle accident, fire district officials ended up leading a long line of motorists back to Oak Creek with their fire engine and ambulance, arriving around 8 p.m. No injuries were reported in any of the slideoffs on Colo. 131, Wisecup said.

"You couldn't see two feet in front of you. The wind was blowing so hard it was rocking the vehicle," Wisecup said. "It was awful - I've never seen it like this, and I've lived here my whole life."

Vale estimated as many as 500 motorists were caught in the storm traveling between Craig and Steamboat Springs, and many of them ended up stranded in Hayden.

After roughly 100 people congregated at the Hayden Kum & Go, including the passengers of two Steamboat Springs Transit buses, the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall was opened as an emergency shelter, said Hayden police Sgt. Gordon Booco.

About 35 travelers spent the night in the terminal at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, because of an inability to transport them back to motels in Steamboat Springs, Vale said. The stranded airline passengers all got out on flights Tuesday morning, he said.

Comments

Responder 6 years, 7 months ago

It's interesting that Highway 131 wasn't closed due to manpower. Couldn't they have at least posted a warning at their mobile warning sign on Highway 40 as you approach 131? Maybe they did, if so, it was obviously late in coming. If such a warning was on that sign, couldn't they then spare one person to warn people further down around Catamount or the North end of Highway 14? It sounds like the sound end was being taken care of by Oak Creek police and fire.

As far as needing it open for snowplowing - the 2.5 hrs. I was on that road I did not see a single snow plow.

Lame excuses for putting us all in danger and disregard for our safety.

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justathought 6 years, 7 months ago

[Lame excuses for putting us all in danger and disregard for our safety.], just what I've come to expect, lay the blame on someone else, no personal responsibility for your own choices (to drive in a storm or not). Chief Wisecup said "You couldn't see two feet in front of you. The wind was blowing so hard it was rocking the vehicle" and you need a sign to tell you to stay off the roads?

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mud 6 years, 7 months ago

Responder, You were warned ALL DAY that this storm was comming and YOU decided to drive in it. Whose fault is that?

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nerviousnelly 6 years, 7 months ago

My family and I will be visiting steamboat for the first time in a week and we are very excited. Unfortunately, I am very bad traveler as I have a fear of flying and driving in snow. I realize I have to put my trust in the professionals when it comes to both of these situations as we will be taking airport transports to the mountain. I just hope the people who make the decision with regards safety take into account the numerous people who are visiting and may be unfamiliar with the roads and conditions.

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fish 6 years, 7 months ago

The secret here is one that you have already apparently figured out. You let someone else drive who is familar with the roads and the types of conditions that you are likely to encounter, but as with the storm mentioned above, even the professional drivers were stranded.

Thanks for staying off from behind the wheel.

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Dukebets 6 years, 7 months ago

Responder - Your comment should be removed.

Who forced you into your vehicle? Who cut the power to your radio or TV? Why did you turn onto 131 instead of turning around and going back to Steamboat?

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