Massive winter storm prompts travel advisories in Mountain West region

March 12, 2021

Greg Grisolano

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A massive winter storm is poised to pummel portions of the Rocky Mountains and Central High Plains states, prompting travel advisories and forecasts of upwards of 4 feet of snow this weekend.

In addition, the National Weather Service is warning of flash flooding possible over parts of the central Plains to the mid-Mississippi Valley through Saturday. Severe thunderstorms also are possible for portions of the central and southern Plains into the weekend. The storm is expected to hit late Friday and last through the weekend.

The Colorado Department of Transportation issued a bulletin urging motorists to watch weather conditions and avoid traveling.

“The forecast has a wide range of accumulations from 1 to 3 feet of snow in and around the Denver region, particularly the western and southern areas,” the agency said in a news release. “Heavier snow may fall over the foothills and east of the Continental Divide. The most severe impacts are expected for the lower elevations.”

The agency advised that travelers should avoid traveling on impacted roads during the storm, including throughout the Denver metro area, on the Interstate 70 Mountain Corridor and I-25 South Gap construction zone between Castle Rock and Monument. I-70 east of Airpark Road and other roadways in the Eastern Plains may close depending on the severity of the storm.

“CDOT is likely to close these roadways for safety reasons depending on the severity of the storm,” the release states.

The agency says that road crews will be out plowing during the storm but will be focused on clearing interstate routes. Secondary routes won’t be plowed until the worst of the storm passes.

The last time a similar winter storm swept the state was in 2003, which dumped up to 6 feet in parts of the foothills.

Forecasters warn heavy accumulations are possible along I-70, I-25 and other highway corridors in the foothills and the Front Range. Heavy snow is expected along the I-70 mountain corridor to the Eisenhower Memorial Johnson Tunnel.

For road closure updates during the storm, real-time and up-to-date information is available 24/7 at COtrip.org. For other questions or concerns, the CDOT Customer Service Hotline at 303-757-9011 will be open on Saturday, March 14, and Sunday, March 15, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The National Weather Service in Cheyenne reports issued a winter storm warning, which will remain in effect from 11 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Friday until 6 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time on Monday morning.

The Weather Service predicts heavy snowfall and accumulations of between 2 to 3 feet, along with blowing snow will severely impact travel along the I-80 corridor and in most of the southeast portion of the state.

“Travel will be very difficult to impossible,” the weather service warning states. “Blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility and result in drifting snow on area roadways. The hazardous conditions will impact the morning or evening commute. Power outages are possible.”

In Nebraska, the state police on Friday sent out a tweet warning motorists that travel in parts of the Panhandle in the western part of the state is expected to be “difficult to impossible.”

CDOT also offered the following suggestions for motorists.

  • During a significant and high-impact snowstorm, travel should be limited to emergency and essential reasons with the proper vehicle and tires for heavy snow.
  • Do not attempt to drive in such weather conditions unless you have the appropriate tires with good tread. Motorists should leave ample distance behind the vehicle ahead, and do not pass plows.
  • If you are out in the storm, have an emergency kit with blankets, food, batteries, water, a shovel and survival supplies should you get stuck or stranded. LL
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Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.