Winter storm drops 20 inches of snow in Colorado mountains; woman killed by tree

A powerful snowstorm that dropped up to 20 inches (51 centimeters)of snow in parts of Colorado knocked out power Monday to thousands of people, closed an 80-mile (129-kilometer) stretch of a major highway and trigged rock slides in the foothills.

Authorities said a 60-year-old Denver woman died after a tree limb snapped off and struck her. No other details were available.

Authorities closed the main east-west route across Colorado, Interstate 70, from Denver east to Limon. A day earlier, the Red Cross opened a shelter for stranded travelers.

The storm cut off power to 25,000 homes and businesses in Denver when power lines snapped and transformers failed, Xcel Energy spokesman Tom Henley said.

"You could hear them popping," said Tom Hartman, who was shoveling snow outside the Schlessman Family YMCA in Denver when the transformers began to crackle and die.

Power had been restored by Monday to about 2,000 homes and businesses in Breckenridge.

In southwestern Colorado, rain associated with the storm system was believed to have triggered two rock slides. No injuries were reported.

The National Weather Service had predicted up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) of snow in the southern Colorado mountains, but some of the snow melted and the precipitation turned to rain, leaving an accumulation of about a foot.

Snowfall amounts ranged from 20 inches (50 centimeters) in Breckenridge to 12 inches (30 centimeters) in Strasburg, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Denver.

A fire broke out near Keystone after the heavy, wet snow helped bring down a power line, but it was quickly put out. Wind and falling tree limbs downed other lines in the mountains, causing sporadic outages, Henley said, AP reported.

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