At least Colo. skiers dig all of that snow

Grimly, residents clean up again after 2nd storm in week

December 30, 2006|By Stephanie Simon | Stephanie Simon,LOS ANGELES TIMES

DENVER -- Just after Thanksgiving, climatologist Klaus Wolter released his long-term forecast for this region. The next few months, he said, would be warm and dry. No big snows until at least late February.

Oops.

Denver and smaller communities along the front range of the Rockies hunkered under a thick padding of snow and ice yesterday, buried by the second monster storm in a week, with more expected overnight.

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens declared a statewide disaster. Hundreds of flights at Denver International Airport were canceled; major highways were temporarily shut down, including a 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70 into Kansas. All Greyhound bus trips out of Denver were canceled.

And, under leaden skies, residents grimly shoveled out. Again.

"It's been a tough week," Denver Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez said.

From his office at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Wolter tried to explain where his forecast had gone wrong.

"I wish I could say I was misquoted," he said. Instead, he could only conclude that nature had pulled a fast one. Scouring meteorological records, Wolter found that it has been at least a century since the region was hit with back-to-back midwinter storms of this intensity. "It's unprecedented," he said.

Up in mountain resort towns such as Aspen and Vail, skiers had a different word for the double-barreled blast: phenomenal.

"The ski conditions are fantastic," said Molly Cuffe of the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA.

The latest storm was less paralyzing than the Christmas week blizzard because it came in waves, with a foot or more of snow Thursday and several additional inches expected last night and today. The lulls in between gave plows a chance to catch up. Also, the wind was mild - nothing like the powerful gusts of last week, which tossed the snow around so ferociously that airport runways could not be kept clear.

Still, disruptions were inevitable. Unable to get fuel deliveries, gas stations across the city and suburbs were shut down yesterday. Many grocery stores were out of staples, their dairy cases empty, their bread shelves bare.

The Denver Agency for Human Rights rounded up dozens of volunteers to take boxes filled with tuna, peanut butter and soup to the homebound. Other volunteers shoveled senior citizens' driveways, hoping to clear paths so that medical suppliers could stick to their schedules for delivering oxygen tanks.

Maxine Mager could have used some of that volunteer spirit at her sanctuary for abandoned animals, Creative Acres, in Brighton, Colo. She spent Christmas week clearing paths through four-foot drifts deposited by the first blizzard so she could get to the barns to feed and water her 350 horses, peacocks, pigs and other animals. By Thursday afternoon, the paths had been obliterated by more than a foot of new snow. The animals' shed roofs were leaking. Two roosters - Buddy and Romeo - were dead.

Mager had already taken every animal she could into the warmth of her home.

"There's a chicken in my shower," she reported.

Stephanie Simon writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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