Colorado highways reopen after October snowstorm; at least 1 ski resort plans early opening

Friday, October 27th 2006, 11:28 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Some schools were closed Friday but highways and runways were back open and a ski resort was getting ready for an early start for the season after a storm left up to 2 feet of snow.

Hundreds of miles of highways had been shut down the day before as the biggest October snowstorm in years barreled through the state, but all major routes had reopened by Friday.

``Not too shabby,'' state Department of Transportation spokesman Gene Towne said.

Still, dozens of schools were closed Friday, and lawns across the state were littered with broken tree limbs that crashed down under the weight of the wet snow.

The falling branches played havoc with power lines, and up to 90,000 customers in the Denver area alone lost electricity during the ``devastating'' storm, Xcel Energy spokesman Tom Henley.

Crews had restored power to all but 1,400 by Friday morning, but Henley said it could take until Friday night to get all of them back on line.

An additional 20,000 customers lost power in Colorado Springs, but service was restored to all but about 1,000 by Friday, the city-owned utility said.

At least one ski resort, Keystone, announced it would open next Friday, a week earlier than planned.

``This storm really put them over the top,'' said Molly Cuffe, a spokeswoman for the industry group Colorado Ski Country USA.

The snow was also welcome for water utilities and farmers, as the closely watched mountain snowpack _ which provides much of the state's water _ got an early boost.

The storm began late Wednesday and turned highways wet and slushy across the state. It shut down dozens of schools, courthouses and voting centers Thursday.

Denver International Airport got 5 inches, and more than 110 flights were canceled, but operations were back to normal by Friday, airport and United Airlines officials said.

The storm caused more trouble as it moved east onto the Plains, bringing up to 4-foot drifts southeast of Denver late Thursday. A 150-mile stretch of Interstate 70 was closed from Denver to Burlington, near the Kansas line.

The same storm system brought two dozen tornadoes to southwest Kansas on Thursday afternoon, damaging a roof at Bob Wilson Memorial Hospital in Ulysses, Kan., and downing fences and sheds. No injuries were reported.