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Christmas storm pounds Colorado; sun, cold temps return today

Published December 25, 2007 at 10:51 a.m.
Updated December 25, 2007 at 7:50 p.m.

A winter storm delivered a White Christmas to many parts of Colorado, the second straight year there’s been snow on the holiday in the metro area. Above, Gregg Rippey tries to keep his balance as he runs down a hill pulling his daughter Lucy at Governor's Park in Denver.

Photo by Darin McGregor

A winter storm delivered a White Christmas to many parts of Colorado, the second straight year there’s been snow on the holiday in the metro area. Above, Gregg Rippey tries to keep his balance as he runs down a hill pulling his daughter Lucy at Governor's Park in Denver.

Commuters and shoppers looking for bargains will see most major streets cleared Wednesday morning as the metro area digs out from its whitest Christmas on record.

Both Denver and state plowing crews planned to work overnight to clear the roads.

“We’ve done a very good job. All the major arterials are passable,” said Ann Williams, Denver’s public works spokeswoman.

Roadsways may still be a bit icy and slick from overnight freezing temperatures, said Stacey Stegman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A surprise all-day storm today delivered Denver’s snowiest Christmas ever, unofficially, with 8 inches of new snow landing on roofs, streets and new Flexible Flyers by late afternoon.

The snowfall easily eclipsed the record dating back to 1900, according to National Weather Service hydrometeorology technician Carl Burroughs.

However, because snowfall is officially measured only once a day at the old Stapleton International Airport — at 6 a.m. — record-breaking numbers won’t be official until Wednesday.

The all-time record for snowfall on Christmas Day in Denver was 1894’s 6.2 inches, which NWS meteorologists discovered Tuesday when they went through the 19th-century’s hand-written records.

The southern part of the metro area was hammered the hardest by the storm that tracked eastward across the state. Littleton reported 10.5 inches and Parker 7 inches; meanwhile, Thornton got just 2.4 inches.

The snow was not heavy enough for crews to plow Denver’s residential streets, but Williams said the city will re-assess that decision Wednesday morning because more snow may be headed Denver’s way. The city doesn’t clear the side streets until it snows at least 12 inches.

Denver Public Works deployed 68 snowplows starting at 5 a.m, Williams said.

At the same time, CDOT activated 70 trucks that targeted Interstates 25, 70 and 225, Stegman said.

The snow triggered accidents throughout the metro area.

One of those tough stretches of road was southbound I-25 near East Quincy Avenue and East Belleview. Several accidents, including one vehicle that flipped, forced Denver police to shut down the highway for about an hour around noon, Stegman said.

Accidents also posed problems for the snow plows, she said.

Denver International Airport remained open but a handful of flights were delayed. United Airlines canceled about 50 flights in Denver — about 14 percent its scheduled departures — as well as some in Chicago to catch up from delays caused by the Midwest storm that had a ripple effect on airports during the busy holiday travel weekend.

The Denver area initially was slated to get just a dusting of snow on Christmas as the storm was expected to blow through quickly.

But Stacey Donaldson, CBS4 meteorologist, said the storm slowed and stalled over the Denver area.

“It doesn’t have anything pushing it real fast through the state,” Donaldson said. “It sits right there and just pumps it out all day long. It makes pretty much of a mess for us.”

The storm also brought snow to the ski resorts in the central and western mountains with Steamboat Springs reporting 19 inches.

“The skiing is fantastic,” said Ryan Whaley, who was able to take a break from his resort job in Breckenridge and get in a few runs on the fresh powder.

The storm was expected to move out of the metro area by midnight Tuesday.

The forecast calls for a chance of snow in metro Denver both Wednesday and Thursday night, according to the weather service.

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