Colorado will stay cold Sunday and could get another dusting of snow as it recovers from a spring snowstorm that shut down portions of both major interstates, canceled more than 200 flights and made travel on the Eastern Plains all but impossible.
Roads are expected to remain treacherous as overnight lows in the single digits will increase the risk of slick roads and black ice.
In metro Denver, between 8 and 10 inches of snow fell between the storm’s sudden arrival Friday afternoon and late Saturday afternoon, said National Weather Service meteorologist Bernie Meier in Boulder.
There were reports of more than 10 inches in Boulder, 12 inches in Washington County on the plains and nearly 14 inches in Watkins, with
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drifts of up to 5 feet in wind-prone areas.
Poor conditions caused a serious pileup about 11 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 25 near Johnson’s Corner, southeast of Loveland.
Between 20 and 50 vehicles were involved. At least four tractor-trailers crashed or went off the road in the area, and a semi-tanker was engulfed in flames, according to Colorado State Patrol.
Traffic was closed in both directions for several hours.
In all, about 15 highways were closed at some point, many on the Eastern Plains. A nearly 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Airpark and the Kansas border remained shut Saturday night, with further closures for more than 100 miles on the Kansas side.
Sustained winds of about 20 mph and gusts of 30 mph across the Front Range and foothills made clearing roads difficult, said Mindy Crane, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Gusts of 50 mph hit the plains.
“We would make a pass on the highway and before we got down the road, it was covered again,” Crane said. “It gave motorists the sense we weren’t out there, but we certainly were. We were battling conditions.”
About 75 CDOT plows are expected to work the Denver metro area Sunday, and another
250 on the Front Range.
Denver Public Works reported its 70 large plows cleared main streets and spread de-icing materials Saturday to help break up ice.
Denver International Airport reported 223 flight cancellations Saturday, and said the vast majority involved smaller commuter flights to cities around Denver and in mountain towns.
DIA normally has about 1,700 flights per day, with slightly fewer on the weekend.
The culprit was a strong low pressure system diving south out of the northern Rockies, bringing cold air and moisture with it, Meier said.
“Extreme is our average. It’s the norm in spring,” said “A lot of up and down — a lot of roller-coasters.”
Sunday is expected to be cloudy and still cold, with highs in the mid-20s. Scattered snow showers could bring another 2 inches of snow.
Then the state is expected to begin a slow warming trend, with upper 20s and low 30s on Monday, lower 40s Tuesday, then lower 50s Wednesday, Meier said.
Kirk Mitchell, Jordan Steffen and Adrian Garcia contributed to this report.
Eric Gorski: 303-954-1971, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/egorski