CDOT to motorists: Stay off the road during major winter storm

Photo: Centennial in major winter storm 2.21.15
Motorists struggle to guide their vehicles down Dry Creek Road in Centennial, Colo., as a snow storm sweeps over Colorado's Front Range communities late Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015.

Update: 5:42 p.m.: The state transportation department is urging people to stay off the roads across the Front Range, including Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.

So far the storm has caused numerous accidents throughout the region.

"If you have to drive, make sure your car is properly winterized, give yourself plenty of room to get to your destination, and give our snowplows room to do their jobs," said CDOT spokesperson Emily Wilfong.

CDOT has around 200 plows working around-the-clock shifts along the Front Range and expects to continue that effort through rush hour Monday morning.

Traffic on I-70 has been "pretty decent" so far on Saturday, according to Wilfong. But she warns there could be trouble Sunday if more people head up to take advantage of the fresh show. CDOT plans to use metering to control traffic along I-70 in the mountains during the heaviest travel times.

More updates on current conditions from the National Weather Service and the Colorado Department of Transportation are below:

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Update 4:20 p.m.: The city of Boulder is now on accident alert, say Boulder police. 

Around the state, snow appears to be accumulating:

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Update 4:05 p.m.: Eastbound traffic is being held at Loveland Pass because of avalanche safety protocolsreports the Colorado Department of Transportation. (The traffic hold was lifted at 4:25 p.m..) And commercial vehicles must use chains on U.S. Highway 119 near Boulder.

Denver is next in line for the heavy snow, according to the National Weather Service.

Denver Public Works says they're ready to deploy the fleet of "70 big plows and 96 light-duty residential plows" when snow starts to stick in the city. 

At Denver International Airport, snow has started to intensify and passengers should expect to spend a little extra time onboard while planes deice. 

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Photo: Blizzard condition in berthoud 2.21.15
Snow sticking in Berthoud along U.S. Highway 287.

Update 3:00 p.m.: The City of Fort Collins is reporting blizzard conditions as the storm continues. 

In the last half hour the snow has increased to near blizzard conditions. All snow plows are out and working hard to keep the roads clear.

— City of Fort Collins (@fortcollinsgov) February 21, 2015

The National Weather Service says whiteout conditions like those in Fort Collins may bring snow accumulation at rates of 2 inches per hour or higher. 

Widespread snow will continue into the evening over NE CO with a few bands of S+ falling at rates of 2.0"+/hr. #COwx pic.twitter.com/GftbfZEA6H

— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) February 21, 2015

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Several inches of snow fell across the Front Range overnight, and the National Weather Service says even more is on the way.

The NWS Denver office predicts that snow will pick up Saturday afternoon, with roads in the metro-area becoming potentially treacherous later in the day.

Denver, Boulder and the Front Range should receive 10-16 inches of snow by Monday, according to NWS. The eastern plains could see 6-10 inches of snow, the foothills are forecast to get significantly more, up to a foot and a half.

A CDOT official described driving conditions around the state as"not too bad right now" in an interview with CBS-channel 4. The Department reports that I-70 is snowpacked, but open through the mountains.

Westbound traffic is heavy, but moving along the interstate from Floyd Hill through Summit County. Loveland Pass reopened at about 9 a.m. this morning.

At Denver International Airport, 77 flights have been canceled so far due to the storm, generally all smaller flights to mountain destinations. By 6:45 a.m., the airport measured around 1" of snowfall.

DIA is urging passengers to check flight status before heading to the airport, especially as the storm picks up later in the day. But overall, it’s a good news for passengers, said DIA spokesman Heath Montgomery. 

"We think about 90 percent of our flights will be unaffected by this storm today. Whether the storm ramps up and creates some additional issues later this afternoon remains to be seen. But we’ll keep an eye on things,” said Montgomery. 

Snowfall totals overnight:

  • Aurora - 5 inches
  • Arvada - 5 inches
  • Denver - 4 inches
  • Westminster - 6 inches

Colorado is on the tail end of what some forecasters are calling the 'Siberian Express,' a major winter storm bringing snow, ice, and frigid temperatures to the eastern half of the country.

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