Denver trucks delayed by snow again
EAGLE COUNTY – This time, Darin Tucholke is ready. He thinks.Tucholke, the owner of the West Vail Shell gas station, had his storage tanks full Thursday afternoon. “I could get through until Monday if I had to,” he said. He might have to. A portion of Interstate 70 between Vail and Denver was closed for a few hours Thursday afternoon, meaning Tucholke and other gas stations were cut off from their suppliers. “I’ve got a tow truck driver stuck in Georgetown now,” Tucholke said about 2 p.m. Thursday. “He said there’s already 18 inches of snow on the road.”The freeway re-opened Thursday evening as another big storm threatened the valley’s main supply line just a week after a Dec. 20 storm shut Denver down for a couple of days. That storm caught some businesses by surprise.”Christmas was a disaster,” said Robert Zmiewski, assistant manager at the Safeway store in West Vail. “But we just got word that certain stores will be a priority for orders. This is one of them.”Many local stores found themselves running short of merchandise over Christmas weekend.”There was a two- or three-day period in Denver when they couldn’t get truck drivers in,” Zmiewski said.City Market managers in Vail and Eagle referred questions to a Denver representative who was out of the office.The inability to get supplies from Denver hit many local businesses.With Denver shut down for a couple of days, fuel supplies started to dwindle at the Vail Valley Jet Center, which serves as the Eagle County Airport’s gas station.Vail Valley Jet Center Manager Paul Gordon said his company was able to keep fuel in the commercial airplanes using the airport, but supplies for private aircraft got pretty tight the day after Christmas.”We were encouraging people not to buy fuel that morning,” Gordon said. “We’ve never done that.”The biggest problem the local airport faced was the fact it remained open while Denver’s airport was shut down. Couple that with the timing of the storm – right when most private airplanes are coming in and leaving for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and a temporary fuel crunch was the result.With jet fuel for the region coming out of Denver, airports in Aspen and Rifle ran short of fuel, too, Gordon said. This week, the suppliers seem to have a better way of getting fuel to Western Slope airports.”Our suppliers moved several trucks to Salt Lake City,” Gordon said. “They can supply us from there.”Kevin Sloane has had an interesting week, too. Sloane, the purchasing manager for the Smiling Moose Deli stores in Eagle, Edwards and Silverthorne, said those restaurants got through Christmas “OK.” And the stores’ suppliers are trying to keep the restaurants stocked.”Our deli meat supplier just called today and will try to send a truck out tonight,” Sloane said Thursday afternoon. “But it might be too late, since I-70’s already closed.”With the prospect looming of another transportation crunch in Denver, Sloane said he looked west for fresh lettuce and other perishables.”I went to Costco and did what I had to do,” he said.If supplies can’t make it to the valley, neither can tourists. Thursday afternoon, Tucholke said he was already noticing a significant reduction in interstate traffic.”You know what, though? If you’ve got your health, everything’s fine,” Tucholke said.
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