Sections of major highways closed in four states as storm builds across Plains

Saturday, February 9th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Blowing snow cut visibility nearly to zero and shut down hundreds of miles of major highways Saturday as a storm gathered strength on the northern Plains.

Up to 2 feet of snow had fallen by midday in the Black Hills of eastern Wyoming, and winter storm warnings and blizzard warnings were posted for parts of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, the National Weather Service said.

Two children were killed in a traffic accident in Colorado.

Travelers stalled by the highway closings had packed motels.

``They said it was very tough getting here,'' said Bobbie Huylar, desk supervisor at the Hitching Post Inn in Cheyenne, Wyo.

By noon, all 48 rooms at the Best Western Limon Inn, 90 miles east of Denver, were taken by travelers stranded by whiteout conditions, clerk Lyndia Raiford said.

``You can't even see across the street,'' she said.

Interstate 80 was closed for some 250 miles from Sidney, Neb., to Rawlins, Wyo.

Among the travelers stalled along I-80 were at least two men trying to reach the Olympics in Utah, said Angelique Lay, a front desk clerk at the Holiday Inn in Laramie, Wyo.

``They keep trying the 800 number to see if it's opened to the west yet,'' Lay said.

Wyoming also shut down other highways, including I-25 from Wheatland to Douglas.

A 200-mile stretch of I-70 was closed from Denver to Colby, Kan., because of the weather and a wreck near Limon that killed two children. Wind gusts up to 70 mph were forecast in the area, where towns are up to 30 miles apart.

According to preliminary information, a car carrying the two children was slowing or stopped on westbound I-70 when it was struck by a tractor-trailer rig, the Colorado State Patrol said.