Crews Rescue Snowbound At Least Eight Dead After Record Blizzard
Rescuers used helicopters, snowmobiles and military vehicles Sunday to pick up snowbound travelers and residents left without heat by a record blizzard that piled snowdrifts up to 15 feet high.
About eight people were unaccounted for Sunday in southeastern Colorado.
“We’re making Herculean efforts to get into some of these areas,” said Steve Denney, a regional planner with the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.
At least eight deaths were blamed on the storm. An unattended candle supplying light in a house without power started a fire that killed one woman in Omaha, Neb.; it took firefighters about half an hour to reach the house because of the weather.
An 11-year-old boy from tiny Stratton in eastern Colorado died Sunday at Children’s Hospital in Denver after being found outside, a hospital spokeswoman said. The Stratton sheriff was unavailable for more information about the boy’s death.
The blizzard that blew through the Rockies and onto the Plains on Saturday left as much as 50 inches of snow in the Colorado Rockies, 22 inches in parts of Denver and 35 inches in the city’s suburbs.
The storm had moved eastward Sunday and snow fell from eastern Kansas through Missouri and Iowa into Wisconsin and eastern Michigan. Heavy snow had fallen in Utah on Friday and flakes fell as far south as the Texas Panhandle on Saturday.
Thousands of customers were without electricity for light and heat Sunday in Nebraska and Iowa.
Hundreds of miles of highways remained closed Sunday, including one 185-mile stretch of Interstate 80 across eastern Nebraska, and some travelers in Kansas were stymied by 4-foot drifts.
The Nebraska State Patrol estimated 200 vehicles involving 500 people were stranded on the Interstate and highways Sunday.
There were no immediate reports of injuries to those stranded on the highway. The patrol worked to free the stranded motorists all day and expected many of them to get out on their own.
At least 1,000 vehicles abandoned in the snow made it difficult for Colorado crews to plow out a 160-mile stretch of Interstate-25 that was closed from south of Denver to near the New Mexico state line, said Bill Vidal, executive director of the state transportation department.
“The problem is locating the drivers or getting wreckers to move them out of the way,” Vidal said after flying over the region by helicopter Sunday with Gov. Roy Romer.
I-25 reopened Sunday afternoon.
In Denver, most of the city’s major and secondary roads had been plowed open by Sunday afternoon, mayoral spokesman Andrew Hudson said.
“We’ve plowed about 5,000 lane miles since Friday,” he said, adding that crews would begin working on residential roads before nightfall.
Airlines began restoring flights Sunday out of Denver International Airport, which had been shut down since Saturday, said airport spokesman Chuck Cannon.
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