Storm drops 20 inches of snow in Colorado Mountains; woman killed by tree

A powerful winter storm that dropped up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow in parts of Colorado knocked out power to thousands of people, closed a lengthy stretch of a major highway and triggered rock slides in the foothills.

The storm was blamed for at least three deaths, while a 74-year-old man who got lost while snowshoeing was found safe after a night outdoors.

Authorities said 150 miles (240 kilometers) of westbound Interstate 70 were closed from the Kansas line to Denver. The entire highway was closed for the 80 miles (130 kilometers) between Denver and Limon, where truck stop parking lots were overflowing.

More than 70 people were staying overnight in four Red Cross shelters opened for drivers stranded along I-70, spokesman Robert Thompson said.

The storm cut off power to 80,000 homes and businesses when power lines snapped and transformers failed, according to Xcel Energy.

"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.

Some 12,000 homes and businesses, mostly in the Denver area, were still without electricity late Monday.

Dozens of schools closed or were opening late, including three in the Denver area that closed because of power failures.

Two children were hospitalized with minor injuries after a school bus slid backward down a steep embankment south of Denver, Douglas County schools spokeswoman Carol Kaness said.

A 73-year-old Denver woman was killed Monday after a tree limb snapped off and struck her, and a man and a woman died after their van skidded off Interstate 76 northeast of the city.

Hundreds of flights were delayed at Denver International Airport as planes lined up to de-ice before takeoff, an airport spokesman said. At one point, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all Denver-bound flights for 90 minutes, reports the AP.


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