Valerie Bender digs into two days of snow from her car in Boulder on Friday morning. She got two snow days from work due to the spring storm that hit the Boulder County area.
Photo by Paul Aiken / The Camera /
Paul Aiken
Valerie Bender digs into two days of snow from her car in Boulder on Friday morning. She got two snow days from work due to the spring storm that hit the Boulder County area. Photo by Paul Aiken / The Camera /

BOULDER, Colo. –

Friday morning’s commute around Boulder County should be sloppy and show proof that the community was hit hard Thursday with more than 16 inches of snow in some places — marking the area’s biggest storm since the December blizzard of 2006.

Snow began falling in the county early Thursday and was expected to quit Friday morning, said Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch. With temperatures predicted to drop into the teens overnight, Kelsch said roads will freeze over, making for a messy morning commute.

“The roads will be passable, but they should allow extra time,” he said.

By Friday night’s commute, he said, sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 30s should clear many of the major roads.

“The sun will be out, at times, and it will be above freezing,” he said. “What’s left on the road should melt before the evening drive.”

As of the 6 p.m. reporting time for Thursday, 16.4 inches of snow had piled up in Boulder.

The snowfall helped catch up the county on its low totals far the winter, so far, but Kelsch said the spring storm should fade fast — temperatures are expected to climb into the 50s by Saturday and Sunday.

“Whatever doesn’t melt Friday should melt over the weekend,” he said. “Spring storms don’t hang around long.”

Thursday’s storm blanketed most of the state, turning highways into parking lots and leaving behind a mess of stalled cars, rollover accidents, jack-knifed semi trucks and generally miserable driving conditions.

Boulder early Thursday was one of the first cities to go on “accident alert” — when motorists not injured in accidents are asked to exchange information rather than call an officer. And, by 8 a.m., most of the state had followed suit as the volume of accident reports soared.

In Boulder and Broomfield counties, U.S. 36 was hit particularly hard by the storm and was shut down in both directions from 11:30 a.m. to about 4 p.m. Problems on the highway began about 6:30 a.m., when drivers struggled up the Davidson Mesa, and cars spun off the slushy highway.

Snow plows and emergency vehicles trying to access the highway encountered dozens of abandoned vehicles along the shoulder. Vehicles were towed all day to the Target parking lot in Superior.

Gov. Bill Ritter issued a disaster declaration, activating the Colorado National Guard. Guardsmen helped motorists move their cars, or at least get to safety along U.S. 36. The highway’s westbound lanes were finally opened about 7:30 p.m. after crews worked for hours to clear the road of accidents and snow.

“(The Guard) really helped us out because 36 was one of our worst areas today,” said Mindy Crane, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

West of Boulder, several cars slid into Boulder Creek throughout the day, and authorities closed Boulder Canyon at 11:45 a.m. due to “white out conditions,” officers said. Most accidents involved only damage to vehicles, although police reported some minor injuries.

The snow kept deputies busy all day, Sheriff’s Cmdr. Rick Brough said.

“They’ll clear one accident and drive less than a mile to the next one,” he said.

Before noon, Brough said, deputies responded to three jack-knifed semi trucks on U.S. 36 and a Regional Transportation District bus that veered off Boulder Canyon Drive and slammed into a rock face near Boulder Falls. Passengers weren’t hurt, but they had to be loaded onto another bus.

Several roll-over accidents were also reported, including one near the site of the bus crash. According to an officer at the scene, a man rolled his vehicle off the road and into Boulder Creek but escaped unharmed.

Sandy Briggs, an officer manager at State Farm Insurance of Boulder, said she expects claims from damaged vehicles to start pouring in today.

“We’re always busy when these things happen,” Briggs said. “Almost invariably, it’s the day after that we get the flood of calls.”

Peter Rosato, a transportation coordinator for Boulder, said snow plows were on the major roads by 5 a.m. with plans to operate on 12-hour shifts “until it’s over.”

Even in areas covered by the plows, commuters struggled to pass. Along Baseline and South Boulder roads, for instance, hundreds of vehicles crept along bumper-to-bumper for hours while U.S. 36 was closed in the early afternoon.

In Broomfield, officials decided conditions were so deteriorated that they needed to close several roads and primary arteries around the city early in the day — including both directions along the Wadsworth Boulevard overpass.

The poor driving conditions closed most city and county offices in Boulder, Lafayette, Louisville, Longmont, Erie, Superior and Broomfield. Only those communities’ emergency workers stayed on the job all day.

As the sun set on a day of constant snow, the Mile High Red Cross closed metro Denver area shelters that it set up in the morning.

Camera Staff Writer Michael Davidson contributed to this report.

Archived comments

Does the city even own, much less know how to operate a snow plow? After driving Broadway this morning I’d it’s very debatable

MaryWanna

3/27/2009 12:43:08 AM

This must have caught them by surprise, because at 7:00 this morning I didn’t see any plowed roads yet. And by this afternoon, much of it still had not been done. Did a really bad job of clearing the streets on this one. I’ve seen them out in the past couple months when they didn’t need to be-when it only spit.They were scraping concrete I guess just to give the guys a job. Now this and no one is out at all.

Flyonthewall

3/27/2009 2:30:21 AM

It’s a good thing we have global warming or it would really have been a bad storm!

Virginian

3/27/2009 6:55:12 AM

Virginian- way to show your Republican ignorance

he_b_gb@yahoo.com

3/27/2009 7:36:40 AM

Slid thru the 28th/Canyon traffic camera around 11:15 last night as the roads were like mountain trails and very slippery. I hope the camera catches my finger gesture!

meatpieandtatters

3/27/2009 8:02:19 AM

Drive west on Mapleton or Linden, for example, until you get out of the city, and you’ll see how much more competent the county is when it comes to maintaining roads.Come on, Boulder, at least plow Broadway and Canyon and 28th Street!

biteme@bugmenot.com

3/27/2009 8:13:46 AM

I came down 36 this morning from N. Boulder and the street was just fine (I drive a regular old car).Most parking lots and sidewalks have already been cleared.Get to work you slackers!

p.s.- spinning your wheels at 50 mph does NOT give you improved traction.Consider putting your vehicle into a low gear and accelerate SLOWLY.My god, are you people in from Boca Raton or something?

gsegiet@flash.net

3/27/2009 8:29:41 AM

The fact that this very normal spring storm brought the Front Range to its knees speaks volumes about all you newbies of the past decade or two.The coppers know you can’t handle it, hence the road closures.

JustSayin

3/27/2009 8:42:18 AM

I am a relative newbie from Georgia. But I put the 4 runner in 4 high and drove at a reasonable speed and had no trouble.

Although I have noticed the plow trucks have been a little slower to act this yeqar than in years past. The only plow trucks I saw yesterday were two parked on the side of 28th street.

Dunkterfunk

3/27/2009 9:05:45 AM

Posted by Virginian on March 27, 2009 at 6:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It’s a good thing we have global warming or it would really have been a bad storm!

Posted by he_b_gb on March 27, 2009 at 7:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Virginian- way to show your Republican ignorance

It seems that the Democrat’s new Kyoto Protocol has put a cap on humor.

zone913inc@aol.com

3/27/2009 9:48:23 AM

Posted by Virginian on March 27, 2009 at 6:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It’s a good thing we have global warming or it would really have been a bad storm!

———————-

First, the storm wasn’t that bad…

since you only reference back one day to come up with such witty insight into climatology,

why don’t you reference one week ago with all that 70 degree weather we’ve had,

Or a month ago with the 70 degree weather in February.

Or that yesterday was the first snow we’ve pretty much gotten this year.

Have we even had a blizzard this year? How many times has it actually even snowed this winter?

It’s been dry even by semi-arid Colorado standards.

Of course, no one claims that this dry spell proves there is global warming, because it doesn’t, just like having a heavy snow doesn’t disproves it.

Just like the next time it rains and you don’t see a rainbow, doesn’t mean God’s forsaken his promise to Noah. It means you need to wait for the clouds to break and the sun to shine through. But it does make it more scary when it rains it night. Waiting. Wondering.

Witticism about global warming would be a little funnier and more insightful if the one making them actually had a grasp of the science…

UAN

3/27/2009 10:07:23 AM

The Pusilanification of Coloradoâ ¢ is complete.Boulder again Leads The Way.

Folks, quick reality check. We live in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It’s not the city’s job to keep the streets looking like it’s August 24th all year round.There used to be a time when a “snow day” meant we all high-tailed it INTO the mountains when the skies unloaded a blessing of fluffy white fun.Now, you act as if George Bush himself rolled into town straddling the barrel of an Abrams tank and dry-humped you all into indentured servitude.

This town in the Clown Car of the Rockies.At least it’s good for a laugh.

SonOfTheGriz

3/27/2009 10:10:50 AM

“… dry-humped you all into indentured servitude.”

lol

UAN

3/27/2009 10:26:32 AM

UAN – right on.Our relatively dry late winter/early spring is more likely explained by La Nina than anything else.

mcmann

3/27/2009 10:37:21 AM

If people had a proper set of winter tires, they wouldn’t go flying off into ditches when it snows.I couldn’t believe that a foot of snow turned this place into such a war zone.

PCR

3/27/2009 10:57:29 AM

I never could understand why anyone would risk their life to get to work on a day like yesterday.SO many people in ditches.In all fairness it was slick and windy, but its clear there is a whole population that doesn’t do it like we used to out here.If it snows, stay home and make a snowman.$50 or $100 or $200 isn’t worth it to die, and anyhow, whats wrong with staying home with your family and friends and having fun?Bizarre.

super_boulder

3/27/2009 1:03:08 PM

super_boulder

I understand your comment for people with regular jobs.

However, I am a professional pet sitter and while a lot people chose to stay home from work, it was also Spring Break and I had many animals to tend to.

I just took it slow, that is all.

Plus, think about how many nurses, doctors, police, caretakers had to get to work too, to save the lives of people injured!

DogmaC

3/27/2009 1:58:15 PM