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Snowstorm shuts down Colorado, Wyoming roads

A cyclist rides through Old Colorado City west of Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday as the snow fall starts to stick to grassy areas making roads wet and slick.

A cyclist rides through Old Colorado City west of Colorado Springs, Colo., on Friday as the snow fall starts to stick to grassy areas making roads wet and slick.

DENVER – More than a foot of wet, heavy snow closed highways and canceled flights in parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Friday, snarling traffic and forcing school closures and flight cancellations.

The American Red Cross was looking for more space Friday night after the shelter it opened for stranded travelers in Idaho Springs filled to capacity with more than 200 people.

One person died in a two-vehicle accident on slick roads in Weld County, Trooper Gilbert Mares of the Colorado State Patrol said.

Power lines weighed down by snow tripped system circuit breakers and knocked out electricity for more than 16,000 customers in Colorado.

Up to 3 feet of snow was expected by Saturday night in the mountains above 6,000 feet, forecasters said. Nearly 3 feet already had fallen in Rocky Mountain National Park about 60 miles northwest of Denver.

The chilly weather forced a return to heavy coats and snow boots for some who already had packed away their winter clothes.

“I cannot get used to this snow,” said Myra Gonzalez, 25, who moved to Denver from Southern California two years ago. She usually drives to work but opted for the bus after seeing heavy flakes outside.

“Now I’m stuck on the bus. I didn’t even want to mess with it,” the customer-service worker said.

The storm was welcomed at ski areas, though, where the economic downturn has reduced bookings more than 8 percent from last year at some resorts.

On Friday, the slopes were packed with late-season skiers and snowboarders taking their final runs of the season. Most resorts close Sunday.

“This is why we live here, to have the slopes to ourselves in April,” said Kristen Petitt, spokeswoman at Colorado’s most-visited resort, Breckenridge.

The storm was not without headaches, though. Colorado transportation officials on Friday shut down an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 70 from Vail to Golden and said travel between Vail and Denver was strongly discouraged.

A 140-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and many smaller roads in Wyoming also were closed. A 30-mile stretch of Interstate 25 from Wellington, Colo., to Cheyenne, Wyo., was closed briefly.

A snow plow driver suffered minor injuries late Thursday when his truck rolled down a snowpacked embankment on Red Mountain in southwestern Colorado. A motorist freed him.

Parts of central and southern Wyoming were under a winter storm warning. Federal courts and city offices were closed in Cheyenne, where at least 14 inches were predicted. The Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne canceled an Earth Day celebration planned for Saturday.

Denver and Colorado Springs were expecting 10 to 20 inches of snow by Saturday night. Many suburban Denver schools closed early on Friday.

United Airlines, the dominant carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled 76 flights. The airport urged travelers to check with their airlines before leaving home. A spring storm last month stranded hundreds of passengers overnight.

Snow also delayed a bus convoy carrying 60 prisoners from Oklahoma to Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Corrections said the convoy had to stop a few miles into Wyoming on Thursday night because of traffic backups. The medium-security prisoners were waiting out the storm at a county jail in Laramie before continuing to a state prison in Rawlins, said department spokesman Carl Voigtsberger.

In Texas, thunderstorms moved through northern areas Friday. Thursday night, hail was so heavy in parts of west Texas that a stretch of Interstate 27 was shut down so snowplows could clear it away.

At least four tornadoes touched down in west Texas on Thursday. No injuries were reported.

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