Snow driven by winds approaching 100 mph shut down the Pikes Peak region Wednesday, stranding hundreds of drivers on roads across El Paso County and the Colorado Springs area.
By mid-afternoon, El Paso County Search and Rescue crews were responding to a 600-call backlog, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby.
As highways closed, businesses shuttered and frigid temperatures hit, most residents hunkered down as officials warned them to stay home while a winter storm with hurricane winds slammed the region.
I-25 has been shut down between North Academy Boulevard and all the way to Castle Rock about noon Wednesday because of multiple crashes, near zero visibility and slick road surfaces, according to Colorado State Patrol.
Wind-driven snowflakes hit Colorado Springs and snow was pounding Monument Hill as gusts topping 50 mph blew in. Weather cameras along Interstate 25 showed blizzard conditions in northern El Paso County, as the Colorado Department of Transportation announced chain restrictions.
In eastern El Paso county, U.S. 24 was closed from Falcon to Limon. Interstate 70 was gated from Denver to Kansas. Drivers were backed up on Woodmen Road as visibility dropped to just a few yards in Falcon.
In Teller County, the storm slammed Divide and Cripple Creek, making travel treacherous. Woodland Park had 6 inches of snow by 11 a.m.
Most schools, government offices and Air Force bases were closed and few cars made their way through a Pikes Peak region fully braced for a blizzard. Medical offices were calling it a day, most notably VA’s Floyd Lindstrom Clinic, which canceled afternoon appointments.
Even the Army finally caved to Mother Nature, sending most Fort Carson troops home shortly after 9:30 a.m.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service Office in Pueblo say it will get worse as winds begin to howl.
“The more people on the road, the higher likelihood of crashes happening today,” the Colorado State Patrol warned on Twitter. “We are giving you complete permission, 100 percent guaranteed, no questions asked to STAY HOME TODAY.”
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