Colorado’s governor is activating his state’s National Guard Friday for assistance in search-and-rescue missions as a major winter storm that some forecasters are describing as a potential “blockbuster blizzard” is set to dump feet of snow across the region.
The oncoming blast of wintry weather is expected to last through Sunday and leave up to 48 inches of snow in parts of Colorado, including up to 30 near Boulder and Fort Collins and 24 in Denver, the National Weather Service (NWS) said. Winter Storm Warnings and Watches are also in effect for portions of Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming, which could see up to 34 inches of snow and wind gusts as high as 50 mph in areas around Cheyenne.
“Let me advise you — you don’t want to be one of those people that might have to be search, found and rescued,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday night, adding that around 50 members of the National Guard equipped with specialized vehicles will be on standby.
“I encourage you to be at a safe location from shortly after sunrise Saturday through Sunday afternoon if it’s snowing in your area, until conditions become safe,” he added.
Photos are emerging of grocery stores in Denver being cleaned out by residents who are preparing to hunker down.
“Widespread travel impacts are likely as strong winds combined with snowfall rates of one to two inches per hour could produce near blizzard conditions,” the NWS said in a Friday morning advisory.
The heavy and wet snow could also cause power outages. Utilities such as Xcel Energy — which is estimated to serve nearly 1.5 million customers in Colorado — are signaling to workers to start preparing for a potentially busy weekend.
“We’ve also done outreach to neighboring utilities — utility partners in other states — to ensure that, if we need emergency assistance and extra assistance beyond those hundreds of staff and contractors, that we do have those available over the weekend and into Monday,” Hollie Velasquez Horvath, a spokesperson for Xcel Energy, told KDVR.
The station reports that Colorado health providers are rescheduling thousands of coronavirus vaccination appointments for this weekend ahead of expected disruptions from the storm.
In some cases, physicians also might be sleeping over at hospitals to help deliver babies due this weekend, Dr. Catrina Bubier, the chief of Women’s Services at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree — just outside of Denver — told KDVR.
“We’re telling people to be prepared, make sure you have a full tank of gas, make contingency plans for different roads to take depending on what’s going to be blocked,” she said in a message to expecting mothers.
The current snowfall record in Denver is 45.7 inches in December 1913, followed by 31.8 inches in March 2003. Numerous other storms there have dropped around 2 feet of snow.
Meteorologists such as Ryan Maue are calling this upcoming storm a possible “blockbuster blizzard.”