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More Stormy Weather Hampers Travel In The West

December 11, 1985

Undated (AP) _ Wind up to 74 mph whipped blinding snow across northern Utah and southern Wyoming on Tuesday, while two tornadoes touched down in frigid central Texas, damaging buildings but causing only minor injuries.

At least 11 people were killed Tuesday in traffic accidents on icy highways.

A surfing contest in Hawaii was canceled because of too much surf - with waves up to 25 high that closed some coastal roads.

One of the tornadoes in Georgetown, Texas, smashed through a day-care center, but only two of the 35 children huddling under rafters and carpeting were injured, neither seriously, authorities said. The other twister heavily damaged a home and two commercial buildings.

Snow fell from the central Rockies through much of the central Plains, and a mixture of snow, freezing rain and sleet was scattered from eastern New Mexico across the Plains into southeastern Iowa.

Snow, cold and high wind battered southern Wyoming but conditions improved enough that that Interstate 80, closed Monday between Rock Springs and Rawlins, was reopened Tuesday by the Highway Department.

Wind gusting to 39 mph at Rawlins produced a wind chill factor of 45 below zero, the National Weather Service reported.

The cold was just a hint of what Wyoming could expect later this week when the ″North Pole Express″ reaches the region, said weather service meteorologist Jack Daseler.

″It comes right from the North Pole,″ he said. ″Probably we’ll have low temperatures right around zero to 5 below.″

In Utah, wind blasting out of the Wasatch Mountains dropped the wind chill factor to 35 below zero, and blowing snow that cut visibility to near zero was blamed for some 20 accidents, none serious, the state Highway Patrol said.

Davis County Sheriff’s Capt. Bud Cox said that at the mouths of some canyons leading into the Wasatch ″visibility is down to almost nothing. At Farmington Canyon ... we had a complete whiteout.″

Weather officials said gusts up to 74 mph were measured near Centerville, 15 miles north of Salt Lake City. In Bountiful, wind ranged from 65 to 70 mph and northeastern Utah’s Cache Valley had gusts up to 65 mph.

Several schools were clsoed because of the high wind and scattered power outages.

Operation of Colorado’s Steamboat Springs ski area was hampered because no one was allowed on upper slope ski lifts in the wind, despite the attraction of 7 inches of new snow. But skiers hit the slopes at Winter Park in spite of wind up to 40 mph near the peaks and temperatures of 5 below zero.

Denver’s usually bustling Stapleton airport operated at less than 50 percent of its normal 65-70 landings an hour and there was at least a two-hour delay in conjunction with air traffic control delays in other cities, said airport spokesman Richard Boulware.

″I expect at least a two-hour delay situation for the rest of the day. Winds and visibility will be the problem, not the snow,″ he said.

The storm swept cold air across Texas, accompanied by freezing rain and northerly wind that pushed the wind chill factor to near zero across most of the Panhandle.

At 1 p.m. CST, Dalhart, Texas, had dropped to 20 degrees, while McAllen reported a balmy 87. Abilene had a high of 73 Monday, but fell to 32 Tuesday afternoon. The coldest spot in the 48 states was West Yellowstone, Mont., with a low of 21 degrees below zero. Freezing rain made highways hazardous in the Texas Panhandle.

A thin layer of ice coated streets and highways across Oklahoma, and some schools were closed. Two school buses were involved in accidents, giving the children aboard only minor injuries.

″We’ve had more accidents reported than you can say grace over,″ Oklahoma City police officer Keith Brown said. City traffic crews spread 75 tons of sand and salt overnight, officials said.

The Oklahoma City accidents included a tractor-trailer rig loaded with hazardous materials that jackknifed and slid partially off an overpass above busy U.S. 77, forcing morning rush-hour commuters to find alternate routes into the city.

″We’re really discouraging travel,″ said Mary Anne Burdo, a highway patrol dispatcher in Guymon, Okla. ″All of our roads are iced over and slick.″

Thunder, lightning, freezing rain and a half-inch accumulation of ice and snow were reported in Carrier, Okla., near Enid, and several temporary power outages were caused by ice on powerlines.

In the Pacific, waves 15-25 feet high crashed onto the North Shore of the Hawaiian island of Oahu on Tuesday, splashing onto coastal roads and closing famed surfing beaches.

″Last night, the waves were going over the highway between Haleiwa and Waimea Bay,″ said Capt. Ralph Wallwork of the Honolulu Water Safety Department.

High surf advisories were issued for the northern and western shores of all the islands, and the waves forced cancellation of the $25,000 Billabong Hawaiian Pro surfing tournament.

″No one can remember a major Hawaiian surf meet being postponed because the surf was too high,″ said Joe Teipel, meet spokesman.

Thunder, lightning and hail pelted parts of Southern California, but savage seas feared because of a full moon never materialized.

Tuesday’s weather deaths included eight people killed in two accidents on icy roads in Kansas, and three who died in Minnesota when two cars, a truck and a commuter van collided on an icy highway.

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