Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Snow from the first storm to hit the Front Range knocked out power and heat to thousands of homes and businesses Wednesday and also brought some more snow to Colorado's mountains.
The state's largest utility, Xcel Energy, said about 140,000 customers in and around Denver and in northern Colorado, including Greeley and the Fort Collins area, lost power at some point during the storm as tree limbs weighed down by the snow snapped power lines. About 107,000 were still without power as of Wednesday afternoon. Many of the trees still had leaves that helped them catch more snow.
The city of Loveland said an estimated 3,000 homes and businesses served by its municipally owned utility were without power. Some will likely be without power through the night, so the Red Cross has opened a shelter in the city, said Gretchen Stanford of Loveland Water and Power.
Greeley and Longmont also were opening warming shelters for anyone without power. Longmont's city-owned utility was working to restore electricity to an estimated 700 customers, spokeswoman Deborah Cameron said.
United Power, a Brighton-based electric cooperative, said about 300 of its customers were also without power.
Xcel Energy brought in crews from Amarillo, Texas, and Grand Junction to help repairs, but spokesman Mark Stutz it could take several days to restore service to everyone.
Northern Colorado got the most snow. Greeley picked up about a foot and Jamestown, in Boulder County, received 18.2 inches. Between 12 and 16 inches of snow fell at Rocky Mountain National Park.
"It looks like a winter wonderland up here, that's for sure," park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said.
At the Estes Park Mountain Shop outside the park, at least 8 inches of snow had fallen by midmorning.
"We tried to shovel. It was horrible," said Dave Watosky, general manager of the store. "Like pushing cement," he said with a laugh.
Up to 8 inches were expected in the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado.
Images of the falling snow came as President Barack Obama visited Denver again, giving the ski industry some welcome national attention.
Two resorts that are already open got fresh snow. On Wednesday afternoon, Arapahoe Basin was reporting 11 inches of new snowfall within the past 24 hours, while Loveland was reporting 21 inches.
The President landed in Denver just as the storm whipped into Colorado Tuesday evening. In his speech at the Auraria campus on Wednesday, he tried to make a joke about the snow — but quickly figured out from the crowd's reaction that the storm wasn't especially early.
"What's up with this snow so soon?" President Obama asked. When the crowd didn't respond, Obama switched gears. "Or is it late? Is it late for Denver?"
The crowd laughed.
Denver's first snow can come as early as September but usually hits before mid-October.