November 29, 2004
Winter Storm Hits Nation’s Central States
DENVER - A winter storm that pounded the Sierra Nevada over the weekend delivered a snowy, icy mess across the nation's central states, stalling holiday travel, closing stretches of highway and making a nationally televised football game look at times like the tuner was off by a channel.
The system dumped nearly 3 feet of snow on parts of Colorado early Sunday before hitting the heavily populated Front Range with bitter cold, blustery wind and about a half-foot of snow.
Traffic was stop-and-go from the Eisenhower Tunnel back to Denver as thousands of people returned from Thanksgiving holiday. Powder blanketed the field during the Denver Broncos game Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders.
Despite the bad weather, an official at Denver International Airport said there were only minor delays on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
"Things are still coming and going pretty well," airport spokesman Steve Snyder said.
In southwest Colorado, a jet crashed at the Montrose airport, killing at least two people Sunday. NBC Sports President Dick Ebersol and his son were among the survivors, but it was unclear if weather was a factor.
Over the weekend, a winter storm system moved into the western United States from Alaska, bringing snow and rain. In central California, where the National Weather Service had issued a freeze advisory, officials said two people died Saturday in storm-related accidents.
Stranded motorists in Nebraska scrambled to find a place Sunday night after slick road conditions prompted officials to temporarily shut down parts of Interstate 80.
Blizzard conditions in the state also closed sections of Interstate 76 for most of the day, but it reopened late Sunday.
Wet, heavy snow in central Nebraska caused several minor accidents, including drivers sliding into ditches and medians, officials said. No serious injuries were reported.
"The past five years have been fairly dry, so it's been pretty unusual to see this happen, just because it's been so long," National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Colton said.
Fifteen inches of snow fell in Wyoming and up to 12 inches were forecast in parts of southeastern Nebraska, officials said.
Snow fell across much of Colorado over the weekend, excluding the eastern plains and some southwestern areas. It clearly was a powder day at the Crested Butte ski resort in the San Juan Mountains.
"This is a birthday I won't forget," said Holly Escue, 38, of Waco, Texas. She and her group survived a mountain car wreck on a snowpacked road to get to Crested Butte.
The National Weather Service predicted the storm would taper off Monday, as it moved southeast. Snow also was forecast in parts of New Mexico and the southern and central Plains.
On the Net:
National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov