‘Bomb cyclone’ blasts Colorado, Polis declares emergency
EAGLE — If you live and play in a ski resort community, snowpocalypse is your friend.
For Colorado’s Front Range, and travelers trying to get into and out of Eagle County, not so much.
A statewide blizzard saw 14 of 14 flights canceled at the Eagle County Regional Airport and more than 1,200 at Denver International Airport by mid-afternoon Wednesday.
Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency Wednesday for the first time in his short tenure, activating the state National Guard to assist state and local authorities in helping hundreds of stranded motorists across the state. Over 500 motorists are reportedly stranded in El Paso County alone.
Polis spokeswoman Shelby Weiman said Wednesday the state Emergency Operations Center and the Department of Transportation are working with local counties “to prioritize the most immediate needs for those resources.”
“Stay home,” Amy Ford of the Colorado Department of Transportation said during a Wednesday afternoon media conference call.
As for the rest of the state, they’re in for it, CDOT officials said.
“This is a statewide blizzard. If people are home, that is the best place to be today,” Ford said.
Vail Pass was closed in both directions for most of Wednesday afternoon as CDOT crews did avalanche mitigation.
Hundreds of CDOT plows have been working since 3 a.m. Wednesday, especially along the Front Range and eastern plains. They’ll stay on snow shifts until they see pavement, possibly Thursday or Friday, Ford said.
“CDOT crews are doing everything they can, but the winds are high and the snow is falling at incredible rates. Deteriorating conditions have made things dangerous,” Ford said.
If you do decide you must head toward the Front Range, you should know that there’s a high risk of avalanche activity, both naturally occurring slides and crews doing avalanche mitigation, Ford said.
Pack some food, blankets and other provisions, but stay off the roads if you don’t need to be out there, Ford said.
In fact, if you’re stuck in a road closure, you won’t be allowed to sit on the road in your vehicle and wait for it to reopen. You’ll have to get off the highway and find some shelter, Ford said.
Local schools in Eagle County canceled all of Wednesday’s after-school activities because of the weather.
AIRLINES DECIDE TO CANCEL FLIGHTS
Airlines decide whether to cancel commercial flights into Eagle County Regional Airport. Problems in other airports have forced the airlines to do exactly that, said Kris Widlak, Eagle County’s communications manager.
EGE runways are in good shape and were since 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. However, a low cloud ceiling in Gypsum and systemwide delays from other airports have forced airlines to cancel local flights, Widlak said.
Private planes were still flying into and out of EGE Wednesday. So were helicopters from the Colorado National Guard’s HAATS base, Widlak said.
IT’S CALLED A ‘BOMB CYCLONE’
It’s all because a “bomb cyclone” hit Colorado. A bomb cyclone is an area where low pressure drops like, well, a weather bomb.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it’s officially called “bombogenesis,” and happens when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, creating something like a snow hurricane.
Colorado’s higher elevations are in for 6 inches or more, said Mike Charnick, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Deepan Dutta in Summit County contributed reporting to this story.
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December 2020 was particularly dry in terms of precipitation for the Roaring Fork Valley.