Published January 13, 2015
Interstate 70 between the Denver foothills and Vail reopened early Tuesday after a fast-moving storm dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas and stranded hundreds in the mountains.
Whiteout conditions were reported on 10,666-foot-high Vail Pass on I-70 and on 11,315-foot Berthoud Pass on U.S. 40.
Wind gusts hit 62 mph on Berthoud Pass, National Weather Service meteorologist Frank Benton said. U.S. 40 over the Continental Divide remained closed early Tuesday.
"If you held your hand out in front of you, you couldn't see it," said Linsey Normandin, a clerk at a gas station in Silverthorne, where about 240 stranded motorists sought refuge in a Red Cross shelter at Silverthorne Recreation Center.
Most were sleeping when the interstate reopened, shelter supervisor Lynn Denham said early Tuesday.
The Red Cross opened three shelters along I-70, with most taking refuge at Silverthorne, a town between Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel, both of which are above 10,500 feet high.
No major weather-related crashes were reported on Interstate 70 Monday, according to the State Patrol.
National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Dankers said 8 inches of snow fell in two to three hours Monday afternoon in Black Hawk, while other areas saw 6 to 7 inches during that time.
Grand Lake in the north-central mountains reported 16 inches of snow. Up to 2 feet of snow fell in portions of northern Rocky Mountains since the storm began late Saturday. About an inch fell in Denver Monday night.
In Frisco west of Silverthorne, at least 800 students were temporarily stranded at a middle school when transportation home was delayed because of the storm.
"It was so bad I couldn't see to go forward — I couldn't tell if there was a car in front of me," Summit High School teacher Bethany Lambrecht told the Summit Daily News. The school's buses made it as far as Summit Middle School nearby, where students then waited for hours before getting out later Monday.
At least 11,000 homes, most in the Denver area, were without power late Monday. Some 1,000 customers in Summit County expected to be in the dark overnight, spokesman Tom Henley said.
"We can't get crews out on the road," he said.
The powder was welcomed by area ski resorts. Loveland Ski Area had more than 32 inches of snow in 72 hours, Copper Mountain saw about 38 inches and Breckenridge had 36 inches.
"We were definitely busier than usual for a Monday," Loveland Ski Area marketing director John Sellers. "And once the snow starts falling in Denver, it will convert those last few remaining people who were still holding on to summer activities."