Snow piles up during May 18 storm

Matt Stensland
Crossing guard Pam Geppert was smiling Thursday despite the heavy snow falling from the sky. Residents of Steamboat Springs woke up to several inches of snow as a spring storm moved across Colorado making it look more like January rather than May 18.
John F. Russell

— A May winter snowstorm caught some by surprise Thursday morning, but the plows in Steamboat Springs were ready.

Crews were out at 6:15 a.m.

“Shortly after that, the snow started to stick,” city of Steamboat Springs streets superintendent David Van Winkle said.

Equipment being used included four graders, three sand trucks and two pickup plows.

“We were staffed up,” Van Winkle said. “We were watching this.”

The city has had no reports of downed trees from the heavy snow, but it is anticipated that could change.

Between 6 and 8 inches of snow had fallen in the Steamboat area by mid-morning.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was predicting up to 16 inches of snow could fall in the Steamboat area by the time the snow tapered off Friday.

“Snowfall with these systems can vary,” meteorologist Michael Charnick said. “Temperatures are critically important to get snow this time of year.”

This storm total alone could surpass the total March snowfall at Steamboat Ski Area, when a record-low 11.25 inches of snow fell.

Yampa Valley Electric Association was not reporting any significant issues.

“Currently, our system is holding up very well,” YVEA spokeswoman Tammi Strickland said. “The lines have shed the snow that had built up on them, and we have just a few small outages.”

Chain laws were in effect on Rabbit Ears Pass, and U.S. Highway 40 was shut down for about 30 minutes because of a crash.

By Thursday afternoon, roads were mostly wet.

The most significant crash was a head-on collision on Routt County Road 129 near Moonhill Estates. One person was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center with minor injuries.

“I’m surprised we didn’t have more accidents,” Steamboat Fire Chief Mel Stewart said.

Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies helped six people whose cars slid off the road.

Staff at Yampa Valley Regional Airport were able to keep the runway clear.

“Only impact was doing snow removal operations early this morning instead of grass cutting and runway marking painting we had scheduled,” YVRA director Kevin Booth said.

Joel Gratz, who runs, was calling for up to 30 inches of snow at Arapahoe Ski Area.

“This storm is fantastic, not just because of powder, but because of the water it is bringing to Colorado,” Gratz wrote. “Most mountains will get 1 to 2 inches of liquid-equivalent precipitation, and the areas east of the mountains could get 2 to 5 inches. Colorado is an arid state, and every drop of rain and flake of snow should be treated as gold.”

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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