DENVER — A winter weather storm closed major highways, knocked out power to thousands of customers and raised avalanche dangers across Colorado on Thursday.
The Colorado Department of Transportation said parts of Interstate 25 that runs north and south near of Denver were closed, along with portions of Interstate 70 west of the Front Range following a slew of traffic accidents that kept authorities and snowplows busy.
Xcel Energy reported more than 500 power outages affecting about 18,000 customers, most in the Denver area.
The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings in north-central Colorado around Georgetown and Steamboat Springs, and advisories went up along the Front Range as snow continued to fall.
Transportation Department spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said the storm came in very hard Thursday morning, making it difficult for snowplows to keep up.
"This is a heavy, wet snow that will pack quickly making the roads very slick. Some areas are worse than others, but it appears the south and west parts of the metro area have more difficult driving conditions," Stegman said in a statement.
Stegman said there are numerous highway closures. They included I-70 eastbound near Denver, U.S. Highway 6 over Loveland Pass and U.S. Highway 40 over Berthoud Pass in the central Colorado mountains.
The biggest closure blocked the I-70 west mountain corridor, closed west of Denver and near Vail.
Stegman said the I-70 closure could be lengthy because wind and snow has increased the avalanche risk.
Officials at Denver International Airport said no major cancellations were expected on Thursday after strong winds limited flights to only westbound arrivals on Wednesday.
Those winds clocked at nearly 90 mph downed power lines and trees, and fueled two wildland fires in Boulder County.
A gust of 88 mph was recorded near Boulder, where crews were repairing downed power poles and lines. A tree fell on a parked car. Two Boulder County fires prompted warnings to residents. Both fires were contained by Wednesday night, but residents near one of the fires east of Lyons were told it could be hours before crews determined it was safe for them to go home.
In the northern mountains, the National Weather Service predicted up to 30 inches of snow before the storm ends Thursday.