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May Day Storm Causes Major Power Outages, Multiple Accidents

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4/AP) – People in parts of Colorado and Wyoming pulled puffy jackets, hats and umbrellas out of the closet again Wednesday for another round of wet spring snow.

The May Day snowstorm was making travel difficult on Interstate 70 in Colorado’s mountains and along Interstate 80 in southeastern Wyoming, but the snow wasn’t having a major impact on Denver International Airport. There were approximately 46 flight cancellations and de-icing delays.

Nearly 3 feet of snow is possible in the foothills and mountains of northern Colorado while around a foot is expected at lower elevations in parts of both states. By midday, over a foot fell at Rocky Mountain National Park where there were power outages reported.

Snow is blamed for major power outages in Northern Colorado Wednesday morning. At one time an estimated 9,000 people lost power in and around Fort Collins. About 38,000 customers in Greeley were shortly without power on Wednesday morning. Xcel Energy said that outage was because of a “system disturbance” and power was quickly restored to those customers.

Crews had to use a snowcat to reach some of the downed power lines in Poudre Canyon.

The snowcat crew in Poudre Canyon (credit: CBS)

The snowcat crew in Poudre Canyon (credit: CBS)

Snow totals amounted from 7 to 15 inches in Fort Collins where residents could be seen shoveling all day long to keep up. Some said they weren’t expecting this much snow this time of year.

“It’s May. It’s not supposed to do this, is it?” a Fort Collins resident told CBS4’s Nina Sporano.

“It’s a spring snow, a lot of moisture, really heavy snow, tough to shovel,” another said.

Chainsaws cleared the way through broken tree branches clogging the streets and sidewalks. The heavy wet snow hugged brittle branches kept city worker busy. Deep puddles filling up on the road was a great sign of much needed moisture, but it kept city crews from ridding the roads of ice.

Crews clearing streets of downed branches in Fort Collins (credit: CBS)

Crews clearing streets of downed branches in Fort Collins (credit: CBS)

“They couldn’t put any of the deicers down because of the amount of moisture and slush and such … otherwise it would have just washed away,” a Fort Collins police officer said.

At various times throughout Wednesday different portions of I-70 had to be closed because of adverse conditions and multiple accidents. In one incident CBS4’s Stan Bush was going to cover a crash that involved one car that wandered into the lane after slipping out. Fire crews then responded when another car’s driver lost visibility and traction and hit the fire truck. Two people were taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

A person being taken to the hospital after the crash (credit: CBS)

A person being taken to the hospital after the crash (credit: CBS)

Eastbound I-70 had to be closed at Frisco and westbound I-70 closed at the Eisenhower Tunnel due to multiple accidents and adverse conditions. One accident involved nine vehicles. Nobody was hurt.

Many other highways and roads had to be closed because of the storm.

The storm is welcome in Colorado and Wyoming because it boosts the snowpack that provides the region’s water supply. Both states are in a drought but have benefited from several rounds of spring snow. However, the recent storms have largely missed southwestern Colorado, which remains dry and at risk for wildfires.

About 5 inches were forecast for Denver, where the snow was making the roads a sloppy mess. The snow wasn’t sticking much to the pavement, still warm after recent temperatures in the 70s, but it clung to grassy areas and flowers.

Denver native Chris Lujan said he’s never worn a top coat, scarf and hat on May 1st before. Greg Notz just put his hood up and wasn’t fazed.

“I expect this. Yup. It’s better than living where it’s warm and dry and nice all the time. At least we get a variety,” he said.

Snow in May hits Denver roughly once every three years. July and August are the only months that snow hasn’t been recorded there, National Weather Service forecaster David Barjenbruch said.

- By Colleen Slevin, AP Writer

P. Solomon Banda and CBS4 staff contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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