Snow driven by winds approaching 100 mph shut down the Pikes Peak region Wednesday, stranding hundreds of drivers and cutting power to thousands in Colorado Springs and across El Paso County.
The bomb cyclone — a rapidly-intensifying storm — slammed the region and brought white-out conditions, closing businesses, highways and schools.
To get help rescuing more than 1,100 stranded drivers, Board of El Paso County Commissioners Chairman Mark Waller signed an emergency declaration Wednesday afternoon. The declaration would allow the county to ask for assistance from state and local governments.
“Regional first responders are doing everything possible to help people in this extreme storm,” a news release said.
By mid-afternoon, county Search and Rescue crews had a 600-call backlog, said Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Jacqueline Kirby.
Governor Jared Polis also declared a state of emergency and activated the Colorado National Guard for search and rescue operations.
In Douglas County, a patrol car with lights on, a snowplow and a school bus drove up and down the worst roads, rescuing stranded drivers and taking them to shelters, the Sheriff’s Office tweeted.
Law enforcement and government agencies across the state pleaded with people to stay home, and many heeded their advice. Those who ventured outside often found themselves stuck on the roads for hours, with highways across the state and roads across the region shut down because of crashes and near-zero visibility.
Interstate 25 was shut down from Monument all the way up to Ridgegate Parkway just south of Denver because of multiple crashes and near-zero visibility.
In Teller County, the storm slammed Divide and Cripple Creek, making travel treacherous. Woodland Park had a foot of snow by 2 p.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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