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Local emergencies declared in Clear Creek, Gilpin counties for massive snowfall

Blackhawk snowfall 3-14-24
Blackhawk snow 3-14-24
Blackhawk snowfall 3-14-24
Plows going up the canyon 3-14-24
Central City_winter storm March 14, 2024_Linda Pribble
Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 14, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-15 00:46:08-04

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — Both Clear Creek County and Gilpin County have declared local disasters and are receiving help from the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) amid Thursday's massive snowstorm.

In the past 24 hours, Gilpin County has seen snow totals ranging from 34 inches to 45 inches, and Clear Creek County saw totals between 18 and 41 inches, according to the latest from the National Weather Service. One of the highest totals recorded in the state on Thursday was Aspen Springs, a neighborhood north of Black Hawk, which recorded 45.5 inches as of 12:16 p.m.

After the SEOC was activated, it fulfilled the requests from both Clear Creek County and Gilpin County. Gilpin County was asking for help staffing shelters and clearing two highways, and Clear Creek County requested assistance transporting stranded motorists, according to Micki Trost, public information officer for the SEOC.

In addition, two snowcats were sent out to help clear Interstate 70 at Floyd Hill earlier Thursday.

Spokespeople with the counties — which are nestled against each other about one hour west of Denver — said the snowstorm has severely stretched their resources and asked everybody to stay home and off the roads so first responders can get to people in need, including those experiencing a medical emergency.

Gilpin County Sheriff's Office
A snowstorm hits Gilpin County on March 14, 2024.

Clear Creek County Office of Emergency Management Director Suzanne Boccia said the county's dedicated emergency personnel have been working since early Wednesday evening.

"But it got to a point where we really needed to be able to expedite some policies and procedures," she said.

First responders had every resource they had on hand, but it wasn't enough for the speed of the storm, the amount of snow, and the number of drivers stuck on the roads, she said. Snowplow drivers couldn't keep up and when vehicles, especially semi trucks, became stuck on the roads, the plows could not maneuver around them.

Some drivers, going by traffic apps on their phones, were directed to use side streets instead of jammed highways, she said. And they got stuck there.

"So, that kind of compounded issues where vehicles were getting stuck on I-70, as well as the side access roads, which are county roads. And it was very, very difficult to access those folks," Boccia said.

At that point, the county decided to make a local disaster emergency declaration.

A snowstorm hits Central City, Colorado on March 14, 2024.
A snowstorm hits Central City, Colorado on March 14, 2024.

As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the situation had become much more manageable thanks to help from Colorado State Patrol and the Colorado Department of Transportation, she said. She praised that partnership and how they helped the county's relatively small, but "absolutely fantastic" staff.

"Our responders, our road and bridge department, our county administration really were prepared to respond at the county level," she said. "But again, we are a small county, and it's really important for our relationships with our state partners, since the state manages the highway, to be able to coordinate that effort. And I really do want to commend State Patrol, and thank CDOT for all of the support and hearing what our priorities might be – continue to be making sure people are safe and out of the elements, and then getting those roads cleared for access."

Snowfall in Gilpin County was starting to slow around late afternoon Thursday, but Boccia said one more band of snow is expected to hit the area, and could drop an additional 3/4 inch to 1.5 inches per hour.

Additional snow for Denver tonight as storm continues

"We are anticipating another potential round of rough going tonight, but we're doing everything that we can within the county and with our state partners to prepare to be able to respond to that," she said.

The Gilpin County Sheriff's Office said around 7:30 p.m. that the county will see another 8-12 inches of snow overnight.

Because the SEOC was able to fulfill the resources that were requested from the two counties, there is no need for a state of emergency declaration, Trost said.

The SEOC will continue to work overnight and through Friday.

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