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Colorado, Nebraska Hammered by Early-Season Blizzard

Area now digging out

WASHINGTON October 27, 1997 -- A surprisingly strong early-season blizzard dumped as much as four feet of snow in parts of the Colorado Rockies and the eastern part of the state, closing highways and airports and stranding thousands of travelers. As many as five deaths are blamed on the storm, which produced blizzard conditions and drifts of up to 15 feet.

At the height of the storm, the Denver International Airport, numerous local airports and portions of Interstates 25, 70 and 76 were closed, forcing as many as 1,000 travelers into temporary shelters. The American Red Cross (ARC) reported 12 open shelters yesterday as the cleanup began and support was being provided for numerous additional local shelters open along I-25. There is no report of current shelter populations, though roads are opening quickly as crews clear the snow.

Colorado's State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was partially activated over the weekend. Numerous resources, including assets from Ft. Carson and the National Guard, took part in emergency rescues, road clearing and power restoration. Colorado Governor Roy Romer conducted an air reconnaissance mission yesterday.

FEMA Region VIII in Denver reports that the situation has stabilized and road and power crews are making good progress in affected areas.

In Nebraska, the storm dumped more than a foot of wet snow, which had its greatest impact in the Lincoln metropolitan area. About 25,000 customers of the Lincoln Electric System in Lincoln and surrounding areas were without power into late yesterday after the heavy snow snapped branches and power lines, knocking out 30 large feeder lines throughout the city.

The mayor of Lincoln declared a local disaster and state of emergency early Sunday and Lt. Governor Kim Robak, acting on behalf of the Governor in the latter's absence, declared a state of emergency before touring affected areas yesterday.

One primary concern yesterday was the lack of water for many Lincoln residents because of the power outages. By late yesterday, however, all power had been restored to the water system, and good progress was reported in restoring power to critical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes.

The ARC opened two shelters in Lincoln and one in Omaha and was supporting local shelters as needed. The ARC is participating with the state in local damage assessments.

Updated: October 27, 1997