Snowstorm closes I-70, cuts power |

Snowstorm closes I-70, cuts power

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
John Gardner Post Independent

A fast-moving snowstorm hit Garfield County on Thursday and continued into the night, dumping between three and nine inches of wet, heavy snow that downed power lines and caused power outages in various parts of the county.

In addition, there were numerous accidents caused by slushy, icy conditions on I-70 on Friday morning, including one that caused serious injuries, according to the Colorado State Patrol.

Omar Palma, 33, of Grand Junction, and his 6-year old son were seriously injured when their car got mixed up in a two-car collision at 5:40 a.m. in Glenwood Canyon that left both vehicles disabled and 10 people hurt.

A passenger in the other vehicle, Laine Jewel from Stevensport, Wis., also was seriously injured, according to the CSP. The eastbound lanes of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon were closed for about an hour and a half due to the accident, according to Capt. Rich Duran of the CSP.

The accident happened when an eastbound 2002 Jeep Liberty driven by Tyrell Luebker, 21, of LaCrosse, Wis., skidded out of control on I-70 between No Name and Grizzly Creek.

The Jeep spun counterclockwise, crashed into a concrete barrier and came to a stop blocking both eastbound lanes of traffic.

A second eastbound vehicle, driven by Palma, slammed into the Jeep at about 50 miles per hour after skidding out of control when Palma tried to avoid a collision.

The CSP reported that a total of 10 people were in the two vehicles, and that they sustained injuries ranging from minor to serious.

The crash is being investigated by the CSP, but alcohol and drugs are not believed to have been factors in the accident.

Attempts to learn the condition of those injured were not successful.

According to Capt. Rich Duran, there were 13 accidents involving damage to vehicles between Parachute and Glenwood Springs in the hours between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., as well as 18 incidents in which cars slid off the traffic lanes and got stuck in the median. Most were single-car accidents.

“The majority of all this happened in the area from Silt, to New Castle and Canyon Creek,” Duran reported.

He said motorists can expect to see some vehicles stuck at various spots over the next day or so, as tow trucks work to retrieve all the stranded vehicles.

Power reportedly was out for much of the night in the Missouri Heights area north of Carbondale, as well as in West Glenwood Springs and in Rifle, according to area residents.

One resident of Silt Mesa said power there was out for 14 hours, from 11 p.m. on Thursday to 1 p.m. on Friday.

Fred Eggleston, Western Slope area manager for Xcel Energy, said he had been rotating crews into the Rifle area from Grand Junction, in order to keep work going on downed power lines and other problems.

“The outages are due to the heavy, wet snow,” he reported. He said ice up to an inch thick or more formed on power lines in the colder parts of the night, dragging the lines earthward or snapping them.

“We’re still in the thick of it,” Eggleston said at approximately 2 p.m. Friday, explaining that as ice melts from the lines that were still whole, “the lines will start jumping” and may do further damage to the grid.

He said the melting had begun as of early afternoon, and was hopeful it may be gradual enough to avoid trouble.

A maximum of 900 Rifle area customers lost power, he said, noting that “from 7 last night until now we’ve had crews up there.” He predicted that power would be restored by evening.

Doug Hazzard, director of the Glenwood Springs Electric System, said the power went out for approximately 200 homes and a couple of businesses in West Glenwood, including the West Glenwood Mall.

Power was restored to most customers by around 11 a.m. Friday, Hazzard said, but he and his crew were on Iron Mountain until nearly 4:30 p.m. repairing a burned-out powerline that feeds the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.

Efforts to reach a spokesperson for Holy Cross Energy were not successful on Friday, as personnel were out in the field dealing with the outages.

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