Winter Storm Valerie Wreaks Havoc in Rockies; Authorities Call Off Search For Missing Hiker

Sean Breslin
Published: May 19, 2017

Winter Storm Valerie has caused big problems in the Rockies, where roads were closed, strong winds damaged trees and thousands lost power.

Authorities searching for a missing hiker in southern Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve have had to temporarily call off the search because of heavy snow and powerful winds, the Associated Press reports. The search is expected to resume Monday when conditions are more favorable. 

Valerie's heavy snow forced several Colorado school districts to remain closed on Friday, including Estes Park Schools, according to 9News.

At Rocky Mountain National Park, where up to two and a half feet of snow fell through Thursday afternoon, all roads were closed on the eastern side of the park because of the poor conditions, the AP also said. 

(MORE: Winter Storm Valerie Forecast)

Three and a half feet of snow were dumped by Valerie in Boulder County, Colorado. Crashes were reported Thursday along Interstate 25, and portions of U.S. 36 and U.S. 287 were closed in northern Colorado, according to the Reporter-Herald.

Cheyenne, Wyoming, had its heaviest late-season snowstorm since World War II, with at least 11 inches on the ground.

I-80 in southeast Wyoming was closed Thursday morning in both directions between Cheyenne and Laramie due to dangerous travel conditions. The wintry weather also forced a part of I-70 to be closed near Vail Thursday morning after multiple spinouts occurred.

Images of downed trees and tree limbs were shared on social media in parts of several states, and more than 4,000 homes and businesses lost power in the Missoula, Montana, area Wednesday afternoon, the AP also reported. Additional outages were reported in the Helena, Cascade, Ulm and Great Falls areas, the report also said.

According to the National Weather Service, the 2.7 inches that fell in Missoula Wednesday was a daily record, breaking the previous May 17 record of 0.2 inches which stood for 121 years.

No injuries were reported Wednesday when a semi truck jackknifed along I-90 at Homestake Pass, but the eastbound lanes of the freeway had to be closed in the afternoon, according to KRTV.com.

To the south, Wyoming roads became snow-covered and hazardous, especially in the passes.

(PHOTOS: Snow Plow Operators Capture Incredible Images at Glacier National Park)

In some neighborhoods in the Salt Lake City area, preset sprinkler systems watered lawns that were covered in snow, the AP also said.

In Utah's Cache Valley, heavy snow weighed down some trees, causing them to collapse, according to KSTU-TV.

“I went to bed, and it was about 5 o’clock this morning and I heard it go," Logan resident Keith Mann told KSTU, referring to a tree in his yard. "And I went outside and it was laying on my second story roof."

Precipitation associated with Valerie will wind down today, says weather.com meteorologist Linda Lam. Additional snowfall accumulation will be generally light, with most areas of Wyoming and Colorado receiving less than 6 inches today.

MORE: Winter Storm Valerie Clobbers the Rockies


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