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Snow & Ice Move East After Battering Colorado And Wyoming

March 8, 1990

Undated (AP) _ A storm packing snow and freezing rain moved eastward across the northern Plains on Wednesday after walloping Wyoming and Colorado with their worst winter storm in years.

About 130 miles of Interstate highway remained closed in Wyoming late Wednesday night, and nearly 4,000 state employees in Cheyenne who were told to stay home Tuesday were given Wednesday morning off. More than 300 miles of highway in the state were closed earlier.

The storm dumped up to 50 inches of snow in parts of northern Colorado and shut down travel from the Denver area to southeastern Wyoming.

In Colorado, a blizzard delayed an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who was driving to Crested Butte to investigate a bank explosion that killed 13 people. His car skidded on an icy highway and rolled over.

The agent escaped injury, and his fellow investigators dubbed him ″Crash.″

In central Iowa, about 60,000 customers of Iowa Power lost electricity Wednesday night due to an ice storm, which snapped tree limbs, bringing down power lines. More than half the households in the Des Moines area were without power, Iowa Power spokesman John McCarroll said.

More than 200 businesses and virtually all of the schools in metropolitan Denver, Colorado Springs and many northern Colorado communities remained closed Wednesday or opened late.

The fierce storm, driven by winds up to 50 mph, was blamed for at least one traffic death in Colorado, and some highways were still closed and littered with stuck and stalled vehicles Wednesday morning.

U.S. Highway 36 between Denver and Boulder resembled a parking lot Tuesday night, according to the State Patrol.

At Denver’s Stapleton International Airport, nearly all airlines voluntarily stopped flying Tuesday, forcing about 2,000 travelers to spend the night at the terminal.

During the height of the storm Tuesday, the Wyoming Highway Patrol closed a number of roads, including about 200 miles of Interstate 80 from the Nebraska border to Rawlins, and about 200 miles of I-25 from the Colorado border north to Casper. By Wednesday afternoon, only a 110-mile stretch of I-25 had been reopened from Wheatland to Casper.

Colorado authorities closed I-25 and I-70, the two major thoroughfares through metropolitan Denver, and I-76 to the northeast, virtually closing off the city. Most were reopened Wednesday, but I-25 remained closed from Fort Collins north to the Wyoming state line.

At midday Wednesday, snow still fell from central South Dakota to western Nebraska, southeastern Wyoming and northern Colorado. Freezing rain extended from north-central and eastern South Dakota to southeastern Minnesota and much of Iowa. Rain fell to the south and east from Texas to parts of Illinois.

Hundreds of vehicles slid into ditches in Iowa, and many rural schools were closed. Many schools in southeastern South Dakota also closed.

Snowfall in Colorado varied widely: 50 inches on Mount Evans, 44 inches in Coal Creek Canyon near Boulder and 3 inches at Colorado Springs. Denver received 11.3 inches.

Snowplows were out early and in force in Cheyenne, trying to clear side streets and some main roads that were buried under 16 inches of snow, the most to fall on the city since a storm in April 1984 dumped 18 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

The cleanup was expected to get easier Thursday, when temperatures were expected to soar into the 50s.

″That’s one of the pluses of having the storms here in Wyoming in March and April,″ said meteorologist Jack Daseler. ″The sun’s up at a higher angle, it warms up quicker after (the storms), and it’s not so bad. It’s not like getting one the last week of December when the snow stays around for six or seven weeks.″

In Linden, Texas, a 30-year-old employee of the state Highway Department was killed Wednesday when a lightning bolt struck a hoisted steel beam and electrified a chain he was holding, authorities said. Linden is about 150 miles east of Dallas.

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