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No injuries reported

Whiteout storm tests local, regional response teams

Melinda Dudley

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

— 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.


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