Multiple road closures have crippled Colorado's interstate system, with blizzard conditions shutting down large sections of I-25, I-76 and US-287 as a major winter storm officially called a "bomb cyclone" sweeps through Colorado. Wind gusts of 80 mph have been reported at Denver International Airport.
Jared Fiel with the Colorado Department of Transportation says crews on most highways are seeing white-out conditions.
"The number one thing we want to emphasize with people is to please, if you do not need to be out in this, please do not go out in it," Fiel said.
NWS meteorologist Greg Hanson says there's another term for this weather system: "Bombogenesis."
"That's actually is a technical meteorological term we use for a rapidly deepening low-pressure system. So, it characterizes that a storm is intensifying very rapidly. The criteria for that is a 24-millibar drop within 24 hours, and we've hit that with this storm," Hanson said.
Gov. Jared Polis has declared an emergency due to the ongoing winter storm. Polis also authorized the activation of the Colorado National Guard for search, rescue and life safety operations, mostly for stranded drivers. An emergency declaration allows affected counties to more easily access additional resources from the state.
As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, Xcel Energy is reporting about 184,000 customers are without power across the state. Poudre Valley REA reported 134 outages impacting 42,379 customers earlier in the afternoon.
UPDATE: 500+ crews work on restoration efforts, but dangerous conditions & road closures may limit efforts. We appreciate your understanding as we work as safe & fast as possible to restore power. Check for mast damage, food safety, status updates & more @ https://t.co/8uv0DtD2O9 pic.twitter.com/oYKC8bskxi
— Xcel Energy Colorado (@XcelEnergyCO) March 13, 2019
About 1,000 flights have been cancelled at Denver International Airport. Dozens more have been delayed or are expected to be cancelled through the rest of the day and Thursday morning.
Current conditions at DEN pic.twitter.com/YFR4q87tky
— Denver Int'l Airport (@DENAirport) March 13, 2019
As of 5:30 p.m., all six runways remain closed, but the airport terminal and concourses are open.
Access to outbound Peña Blvd between the airport and 56th Ave. has been temporarily suspended to provide assistance to motorists and to treat and clear the roadway. Inbound Peña Blvd. remains open, but has been frequently blocked due to accidents.
The Red Cross says warming shelters have started opening in Colorado and Wyoming. They include Emanuel Baptist Church in Fort Morgan, the Leeper Center in Wellington and the Storey Gym in Cheyenne.
The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has put together a map of open shelters, warming centers and emergency operations here.
— CO - Emergency Mgmt (@COEmergency) March 13, 2019
Major road closures
CDOT is urging people to stay off the highways, citing vehicle spin-outs and crashes as the key cause of closures. Major areas shut down as of 2 p.m. are:
- I-70 and major roads in the Eastern Plains
- I-25 Monument Hill from Ridgegate to Monument
- All high mountain passes in southwestern Colorado
- Various closures on the I-70 Mountain Corridor
- Various road closures in Colorado Springs
CDOT plows have been in full deployment since early this a.m. They are focused on making multiple passes on interstates & working w/ CSP & local agencies for emergency response w/ stranded vehicles & reported crashes. Safety patrols will provide assistance to stranded motorists.
— CDOT (@ColoradoDOT) March 13, 2019
— CSP Larimer (@CSP_Larimer) March 13, 2019
Last updated March 13, 2019 at 5:42 p.m.