Thu, 23 Feb 2012 08:23 CST
Strong winds and blowing snow are wreaking havoc in Denver. This morning, Interstate 70 from Vail to the Eisenhower Tunnel closed due to heavy snow. There's no estimated reopening time. Strong gusts Wednesday delayed flights arriving in Denver for part of the day, downed power lines and trees, and fueled two wildland fires in Boulder County.
Xcel Energy Inc. reported about 33,000 customers mostly in the west Denver area lost power, and it could be Friday or possibly the weekend before all power is restored. Colorado Springs also was dealing with downed trees and power lines. Colorado Springs Utilities said about 1,100 customers lost power Wednesday night.
For part of Wednesday day, flights arriving at Denver International Airport could only approach from the west as winds gusted up to 40 mph. That delayed arrivals an average of 1 1/2 hours before the wind shifted, allowing the airport to use all of its runways for takeoffs and landings.
A gust of 88 mph was recorded near Boulder, where crews were repairing downed power poles and lines, and a tree fell on a parked car. Two Boulder County fires prompted warnings to residents. Both fires were contained by Wednesday night, but residents near one of the fires east of Lyons were told it could be hours before crews determined it was safe for them to go home.
The warm winds drove temperatures into the 60s around Colorado Springs, but in the northern mountains, the National Weather Service predicted up to 30 inches of snow before the storm ends Thursday.