Denver’s snow came a lot earlier than expected on Tuesday and messed up your whole life

The snow and ice diverted light rail lines but did not immediately shut down schools. City offices are closing early.

A snowy day in downtown Denver. Oct. 29, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A snowy day in downtown Denver. Oct. 29, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

UPDATE: Denver Public Schools announced schools would be closing early Tuesday, with middle and high school students released at noon. Elementary Schools including K-8 schools will be released at 2 p.m., according to a release from the district.

Buses will be dropping off students at their normal stops between 2:15 p.m. and 3 p.m.


Monday snow forecasts for Denver promised a break through noon on Tuesday. Monday forecasts were wrong.

But you already know that because you’re living it, with varying degrees of difficulty.

RTD and its passengers are likely having a rough Tuesday. The agency reported systemwide 15- to 30-minute delays on bus routes, while light rails had delays of up to 15 minutes. RTD said trains were moving at reduced speeds approaching stations and crossings.

At one point this morning, the agency said “frozen/snowed over switches” at Union Station caused all C and E lines to divert to the 18th and California Station. The lines have since resumed regular service after.

At around 10 a.m., RTD said a frozen switch on Stout Street was holding up all L line trains. RTD spokeswoman Laurie Huff said there were some canceled trips on light rail and delays due to bus drivers and light rail operators moving much slower than usual due to conditions. Overall, she said the delays “weren’t out of the ordinary.”

“I think that we were very prepared,” Huff said. “We did have weather delays, which you expected to see.”

Huff said some drivers called out sick Tuesday, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many; she said the call-outs can impact service. The agency is facing a driver shortage.

RTD spokeswoman Marta Sipeki said they had about a 5 percent absence rate for light rail operators and 12 percent absence rate for bus drivers on Tuesday, up from the 2 percent and 9 percent rates for a typical day. Those absences include staff who called out sick, were on vacation, were out due to injury or were unable to get to work due to the conditions.

The conditions weren’t enough to shut down Denver Public Schools, which are open today, though afterschool activities and field trips are canceled. The district said in a release Tuesday road conditions may cause minor delays on some bus routes.

District spokesperson Will Jones said the district is evaluating whether to close schools early. Jones said they made the decision to keep schools open at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday based on a forecast suggesting the heaviest snow would fall in the evening, not the morning.

“Then a couple of hours later, nature unleashed this storm,” Jones said.

The University of Denver closed for the day around 9:30 a.m. Metro State University and the University of Colorado Denver stayed opened and classes are running normally.

The city announced shortly before noon that government offices will be closing at 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The release said 24-hour city services including snow response, traffic operations, trash/recycling, public safety and emergency operations will keep their regular schedules.

Denver Public Library said they would close all branches at 2 p.m.

CDOT said state offices in Denver would close at 2:30 pm on Tuesday. They recommend leaving work early this afternoon to avoid the snowstorm, which is expected to pick up this evening.

Paul Schlatter, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Boulder, said Tuesday’s snowstorm is a different storm than the one that dropped several inches in Denver and the region on Monday.

This new storm began Tuesday around 4 a.m. in the northern part of the state before moving south to Denver and the metro area. Schlatter said it’s already dropped between 1 and 4 inches across the metro area.

Expect moderate to heavy snowfall Tuesday morning until about noon, when Schlatter said things will lighten up. Then it’s back to be annoying, with snowfall expected to pick up in the afternoon and evening hours.

And RTD train downtown on a snowy day in Denver. Oct. 29, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

And RTD train downtown on a snowy day in Denver. Oct. 29, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

It’d snowed enough by mid-morning to prompt Denver Public Works to ready its 36 residential street plows. They’ll be out from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m., according to a press release.

The plows will take one pass down the middle of every side street, taking off the top few inches of snow in order to prevent deep ice rutting. They won’t plow down to the pavement and they don’t carry de-icing materials.

Those residential plows are smaller than what you see on the big streets — they’re 4×4 pickup trucks. Public Works decides to deploy them “as conditions dictate.”

You can track Denver’s plows here.

If you think the snow is bad, wait until you hear how cold it’s going to get in Denver.

Schlatter said the city will most likely break its record-low temperature — 7 degrees — for Wednesday’s date as they’re expecting temperatures to drop to 3 degrees overnight. That’s pretty close to the city’s all-time record low for October, -2 degrees. It’s a record set in 1917.

“We may approach that record,” Schlatter said.

This means crappy commutes and freezing temperatures for Tuesday while the city is under a Winter Storm Warning. The warning will last until noon Wednesday.

“When you’re in a (Winter Storm Warning), you expect very difficult travel conditions, cold temperatures, snow accumulation on the road,” Schlatter said.

Denver police reported 74 crashes this morning, including 66 since 6 a.m. Tuesday. Cops were investigating a five-vehicle crash at Platte River and Florida Avenue that closed roads in the area at about 8:30 a.m.

“Motorists are reminded to clear car windows, mirrors & lights, turn on those lights & wipers on and take it slow,” police tweeted Tuesday.

The good news: Schlatter said they’re not forecasting any additional snow this weekend.

Once it’s all said and done, Schlatter said total snow accumulation will likely mean six to 12 inches in Denver when factoring in both storms.

As for the tiny dogs of Denver, they’re braving the accumulating snow with style and grace.

This story will be updated. Denverite Editor Ashley Dean contributed to this story

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