Winds cause holiday travel woes in Colorado and Nebraska

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 31, 2011 3:23 PM
Winds cause holiday travel woes in Colorado and Nebraska

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - High winds and snow slowed travelers in Colorado and Nebraska ahead of the new year, as many Americans hit the roads over the holiday weekend, officials said on Saturday.

The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for eastern Colorado, parts of Nebraska, Wyoming and the Dakotas. The warning is in effect until sundown on Saturday when the winds are expected to die down.

On the high plains of Colorado, Interstate 76 from east of Denver to the Nebraska state line was closed to all high-profile vehicles, including trailers and sports utility vehicles, the state Department of Transportation said.

There was nearly zero visibility on Interstate 80 in southern Nebraska due to wind and blowing snow, the Nebraska State Patrol said.

Blowing and drifting snow in the mountains and swirling dust on the eastern plains of Colorado will make traveling difficult for motorists, said Jim Kalina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder, Colorado.

The buffeting winds have also hurt the state's lucrative ski industry over the busy holiday weekend. All lifts at the Breckenridge Ski Resort west of Denver were closed on Saturday morning.

"Until high winds abate, most of the mountain remains on a delayed opening," the resort said on its website.

In the town of Breckenridge, about 5,000 customers were without power due to gusts that brought down power lines, Xcel Energy spokeswoman Michelle Aguayo said.

At the Winter Park ski resort west of Denver, lifts were operating on the lower part of the mountain, but not at elevations of 10,000 feet and above, said Mistalynn Lee, spokeswoman for the resort.

"Safety is always first, but we have high hopes the winds will die down and we can open all the lifts," Lee said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed the 11,000-foot Loveland Pass traversed by U.S. Route 6 on Saturday due to blowing and drifting snow, the agency's website said.

(Additional reporting by David Hendee: Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Cynthia Johnston)