Weather hammers Yampa Valley | SteamboatToday.com

Weather hammers Yampa Valley

Police, rescuers overwhelmed

Brandon Gee

Steamboat Springs — The gusty winds, heavy snow and poor visibility that forced lift closures and frustrated skiers and riders at the Steamboat Ski Area on Sunday also contributed to a flurry of accidents, rescue operations and road closures throughout the Yampa Valley and Colorado. — The gusty winds, heavy snow and poor visibility that forced lift closures and frustrated skiers and riders at the Steamboat Ski Area on Sunday also contributed to a flurry of accidents, rescue operations and road closures throughout the Yampa Valley and Colorado.

— The gusty winds, heavy snow and poor visibility that forced lift closures and frustrated skiers and riders at the Steamboat Ski Area on Sunday also contributed to a flurry of accidents, rescue operations and road closures throughout the Yampa Valley and Colorado.

Rabbit Ears, Vail, Loveland, Berthoud, Gore and Walden/Cameron passes and the Eisenhower Tunnel were all closed Sunday evening, along with other closures and restrictions statewide, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“We’re pretty much isolated right now,” Routt County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Miles DeYoung said Sunday evening by phone, while responding to a traffic accident. “I’m running from crash to crash to crash.”

Routt County Search and Rescue also was being stretched thin, with three searches resolved Sunday evening and two others resolved earlier in the day.

“We’re getting hammered,” Search and Rescue spokesman and member Darrel Levingston said Sunday evening. “This is horrible, horrible weather.”

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On Sunday evening, two Oklahoma snowshoers were found and rescued on Rabbit Ears Pass.

Before the pair was found, Levingston said rescuers were not sure where the pair was located, but would look for their car to use as a starting point for the search.

Also on Rabbit Ears Pass, near the Walton Peaks area, three middle-aged snowmobilers from the Front Range were stuck, one who fell through ice into water up to his chest. Levingston said reports were that the man had escaped the water and was being warmed by a fire the three built before the trio was rescued. Levingston said the area’s conditions – gusty winds of 35 miles per hour and very low visibility – made it a tricky rescue.

“For us to go up there would be extremely dangerous for our crew,” he said. “We’re trying to find a safe way to go in and pick them up.”

Near Steamboat Lake in North Routt County, there were reports of two people on snowmobiles seen falling through ice into the lake.

The people reportedly got out of the water and were seen walking away from the hole. Levingston said Steamboat Lake Outfitters, the U.S. Forest Service and the North Routt Fire Protection District and Ambulance were all involved in trying to find the two who were later found.

“We’re sending up a team of three to try and help with that effort,” Levingston said.

Earlier in the day, two skiers lost on Lynx Pass eventually found their way out and were safe at home. At 9 a.m. Sunday, Search and Rescue received word that one of their own members was stuck in the Diamond Park area in North Routt.

Search and Rescue member Delbert Bostock was with four other local snowmobilers who left at 9 a.m. Saturday, got stuck and were forced to spend the night. They didn’t make their way out until early Sunday afternoon.

“Everybody thinks it can’t happen to me,” Levingston said. “One of them was actually a member of Search and Rescue, and all of them were really experienced outdoorsmen and great snowmobilers. : The good news was they were all very well prepared. They were able to stay warm through the night.”

Weather warnings

Sunday’s storm caused the National Weather Service in Grand Junction to issue heavy snow and hazardous weather warnings for Northwest Colorado and much of the Western Slope. The warnings were effective until 5 a.m. this morning, and cited wind “gusts to around 50 miles per hour” along with 16 inches of snow.

Northwest Colorado could get a break from severe winter weather this week, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

“The next chance of snowfall for eastern Utah and western Colorado will be Friday and Saturday as the next Pacific low-pressure system passes,” reads a seven-day outlook.