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Snow-Clogged Colorado Roads Reopen and Travelers Move On

November 30, 1997| From Associated Press

DENVER — Major highways reopened Saturday in southern Colorado after being blocked by more than 3 feet of snow, and hundreds of travelers hit the road after spending the night in emergency shelters.

"It was just a big storm. It came in real bad," said Rudy Pineda, who helped set up a shelter in Washington High School in Walsenburg.

About 275 people were housed at the school after the storm closed roads into and out of the town near the New Mexico state line.

"Everybody was getting kind of nervous, kind of anxious to leave," Pineda said. "They slept anywhere they could lay their blankets, or cots, or mats, or anything else we could get ahold of."

At least one death was blamed on the storm, which piled up snow from Thursday night through Friday. About 4,500 customers lost power west of Pueblo, but service had been restored to most on Saturday.

Unlike the October blizzard that was blamed for 17 deaths across seven states, this storm's snowfall was concentrated in southern Colorado, hitting hardest in the mountains of south-central Colorado and towns south and east of Pueblo.

Interstate 25 was closed for about 85 miles from Pueblo to the New Mexico state line. Both southbound and northbound lanes were reopened by midday Saturday, authorities said.

Other highways also were closed around Walsenburg, Kit Carson and Limon.

Walsenburg received 40 inches of snow, with 33 inches at Beulah and Rye, and 27 at Colorado City. Wind piled the snow into drifts 10 feet high at Rye.

Pueblo, however, only got 2 to 5 inches, and the Denver area, 110 miles north of Pueblo, got rain or only small amounts of snow.

Elsewhere, dense fog prevented dozens of flights from landing at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for part of Saturday, delaying thousands of travelers.

Northwest Airlines, which accounts for 80% of the airport's flights, had diverted 34 flights and canceled 59 by early afternoon, spokeswoman Kathy Peach said. About 3,500 to 4,000 passengers were affected.

The fog began lifting by early afternoon, and airplanes that had been diverted to Sioux Falls, S.D., and Fargo and Grand Forks, N.D., were able to return to the air, Peach said.

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