Storm smacks the Vail Valley with a blanket of snow
VAIL — It’s wasn’t exactly Snowmageddon, but the winter’s first major storm closed Interstate 70 and stranded motorists between Avon and Georgetown Monday afternoon.
“It’s a crazy day,” said Nate Reid, Trooper with the Colorado State Patrol. “People need to slow down and give each other plenty of room.”
The storm dropped up to 4 inches of snow on parts of the Vail Valley and Summit County, and caught dozens of motorists unprepared.
Beaver Creek reported eight inches of snow in three hours Monday afternoon.
It’s not like you weren’t warned.
For weeks, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State Patrol has had flashing signs over Interstate 70 reminding us that winter is coming, and asking us if our tires are in good shape.
“We try,” Reid said. “Sometimes people listen.”
Motorists slide around on roads for a few reasons:
• Those roads are slick
• Their tires are not up to the task.
• All of the above
“We’ll just say that their urgency to get their tires changed out significantly increased Monday,” said Bill Britt with Vail Discount Tire in Eagle-Vail. “Our phones have been going crazy all day.”
Britt has some uncomplicated advice for motorists.
“Look at the calendar. Don’t look outside. It’s November; it’s time to get tires on.”
Britt has been gently reminding his customers for weeks, and again on Saturday, although he said they were slow Saturday.
“It was sunny,” he explained smiling.
When the highway closed, local hotels were swamped by people looking for shelter from the storm. In fact, of the three hotels we called, the very professional and polite front desk staffs were entirely too rushed to chat about the weather.
“Yes, sir, people are stopping for a visit,” said one man.
The Jacob family, driving across the country from Oregon to Pennsylvania, was forced to exit the I-70 in Vail at about 3:30 p.m. Traveling with their 11-month-old son, they said they were calling hotels for rates.
“We were hoping to make it to Kansas tonight, but I don’t think that is going to happen,” Joanna Jacob said.
CDOT plowing through the storm
In Eagle and Summit counties, CDOT had 19 maintenance personnel operating 25 pieces of equipment throughout the storm. Plow trucks focused on the I-70 stretch through Straight Creek in Summit County with another five trucks each for the Vail and West Vail corridors.
“We have more plow trucks and drivers gearing up to provide the best customer service we can,” said Jared Morgan, a maintenance patrol supervisor in Summit County. “We’d like to remind motorists to take their time, leave extra room behind our plow trucks and let us clear the way. And please have vehicles well prepared for these winter events — snow tires are a must.”
Clouds returning tuesday
This storm will be short-lived, said Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
“It’s pretty much the end of unseasonably warm weather,” Phillips said.
The initial front that’s pushing through and has some pretty cold air with it, Phillips explained.
Most of that cold air will settle on the Front Range, but there is enough cold air and moisture to keep snow in the forecast for the rest of the week, Phillips said. Steamboat got some snow. So did Meeker and Aspen.
“Everyone is getting a little shot with this first one,” Phillips said.
Snow is expected to turn sunny for Veterans Day, the National Weather Service forecast said. Tuesday, though, will see the clouds return along with a chance of snow through the rest of the week.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.