January 14, 1997 in Nation/World

Snow Overwhelms States Winter Storm Closes Highways, Cuts Off Power, Shuts Schools

Associated Press

Ice and snow blocked highways from the Southern California mountains to Louisiana on Monday as a broad storm piled up 4-foot snowdrifts and snapped power lines.

“This is ridiculous,” said motel clerk Erica Johnson in Bossier City, La., whose drive home to Shreveport was delayed when Interstate 20 was closed so crews could spread sand on the ice.

At least 200,000 utility customers lost power in Texas.

Two feet of snow had fallen by midday at Durango, Colo., closing all major mountain passes in the area, and an additional 3 feet of snow was possible in the region’s San Juan Mountains. The avalanche danger was high.

“I think you can say Durango and Cortez are going to be totally isolated for a while,” said Jan Brown, a sheriff’s dispatcher.

Temperatures near zero at Taos had about 100 people a day calling Hawk Mechanical for heating and plumbing repairs, said owner Max Stroback.

“And they’re all panicking,” he said.

Drifting snow in Utah shut down a 49-mile section of I-15 in the state’s southwestern corner and about 90 miles of I-70 in central Utah. During the weekend, the threat of avalanches from 2 feet of fresh snow closed roads in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains, stranding thousands of skiers overnight.

A foot of snow fell at Flagstaff, Ariz., elevation 7,000 feet, and drifts up to 4 feet high formed. Northern Arizona University canceled classes.

In Texas, nearly every major school district was closed in the Houston area, where roads were slushy and overpasses were icy.

Some 180,000 utility customers were in the dark in the Houston area because of the ice. And 20,000 customers were blacked out in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area.

Debbie Reed’s family huddled around their Houston fireplace to keep warm. “It’s been cold, but we’ve been reading and playing games - doing all those things you do without television,” she said.

American Airlines canceled more than 100 flights early Monday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

Other flights were delayed by the need to de-ice the planes.

On the back side of the storm, snow closed a segment of I-15 at Cajon Pass during the morning in the mountains east of Los Angeles. Later, the California Highway Patrol escorted traffic through that stretch.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email