With a spring storm roaring across the state Thursday, winter proved reluctant to leave Colorado like a lamb.
Gov. Bill Ritter declared the state a disaster area Thursday in a news release that also announced the activation of the National Guard and the use of $200,000 in state funds for emergency assistance.
A spokesman for the National Weather Service said the San Juan Mountains received between 6 and 14 inches Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
Weather Service forecaster Jim Daniels said Durango could expect another day of light dustings today but again will avoid the brunt of a storm that is shutting much of the state. Temperatures aren't expected to rise past 45 degrees today with brief moments of sunshine expected throughout the day.
Daniels said the worst of the storm has passed.
Scattered snow could fall on the Silverton area today but won't match the 14 inches that fell on Coal Bank Pass on Thursday morning. Molas Pass received 13 inches and Red Mountain Pass got 6.
"The snow is turning more into snow showers," said Daniels.
Denver International Airport managed to stay open Thursday, but hundreds of flights were canceled. United and Frontier airlines each grounded more than 50 flights. Southwest Airlines canceled all 82 of its departing flights Thursday. Peña Boulevard, which feeds traffic to the airport, was reduced to one lane in each direction, causing additional delays.
Ritter advised Coloradans on the Front Range to limit highway travel and asked employers to release workers early to help ease rush-hour traffic.
Across the state, high winds and slushy snow combined Thursday to shut down roads and bring traffic to a crawl in metropolitan areas. Snowfall exceeded 3 feet in some mountainous parts of the state with more expected to fall today.
The Colorado Department of Transportation closed roads Thursday, including patches of Interstate 25 between Wellington and the Wyoming border and Interstate 70 near the Kansas border. U.S. Highway 36 between Westminster and Boulder was shut down, as well.
The department issued chain advisories for drivers using I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel and near Vail. Drivers crossing Molas Pass, Coal Bank Pass and Red Mountain Pass on U.S. Highway 550 are required to have chains, snow tires or four-wheel drive.
Leaders at the Capitol in Denver dismissed the Legislature early Thursday and announced that today will be a snow day.
Both the House and Senate spent Thursday morning in session, trying to churn through as many bills as possible before tackling the budget in early April. But legislators frequently looked out the windows and saw whiteout conditions.
Senators sent text messages to challenge the House to a snowball fight on the Capitol steps at noon.
Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, urged every senator to show up and "prove that the Colorado House of Representatives should now be the Colorado House of Pain."
But the House worked an hour and a half later than the Senate, so the epic showdown fizzled.
Meanwhile, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort recorded 8½ inches of fresh powder at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, and the National Weather Service expected another 3 to 5 inches overnight, said Liz Witte, spokeswoman at DMR. Total March snowfall at DMR before the storm was 3 inches.
Witte said the storm is a blessing that promises to help boost sales before the resort closes April 5.
firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Associated Press and Herald Staff Writer Joe Hanel contributed to this report.