Power mostly restored

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Weekend’s monster snowfall now just a melting memory

By Vicky Gits

Electrical power was largely restored in Evergreen by Wednesday in the wake of last weekend's massive snowstorm.

Technicians were forced to go home and get their snowshoes to reach some of the problem areas, an Xcel spokesman said Tuesday. Many residents were without power for at least three days, but most of the power was restored by Monday night.

The huge, wet spring snowstorm dumped from 3 to 4 feet of snow on the mountains of Jefferson County over the weekend and closed Interstate 70 from Golden to East Vail from Friday afternoon to Saturday.

In Evergreen on Monday morning, about 4,000 people were without power, down from a peak of 11,000 at one point over the weekend, said Joe Fuentes, spokesman for Xcel Energy. The power company deployed about 30 crews from all over the Denver area to help restore power, and by Wednesday all but a few isolated homes had electricity.

Restaurant scenes

The lack of electricity over the weekend forced Creekside Cellars and Beau Jo’s to close on Saturday, but on the other side of Main Street, One World Café still had power and did a booming business serving people who had no electricity at home.

“We had power on Saturday morning, but we didn’t have any staff. Saturday night we opened at 5:30 and were packed,” said co-owner Susan Yeagley, who lives about a mile and a half away. Her partner, Rick Caldis, is the cook, and most of the staff live in Evergreen.

“It was amazing how much traffic there was,” Yeagley said. “The roads were more slushy than anything else.”

She was thankful to Heart Cameron of the Park and Recreation District for plowing out her parking lot. He was in the area and saw Yeagley trying to dig out. “We figured the worst of it was over” by Saturday night, she said. “We also got plugs from Channel 9, so people saw us on the news.”

Fire and snow

Chief Garry DeJong of the Evergreen Fire Protection District said there were many reports of downed power lines sparking and starting trees on fire. The district’s radio system went down briefly during the storm, and operations were transferred to Jeffco. An emergency generator failed to kick in, and firefighters had to jump-start it.

“Otherwise, it was fairly uneventful for the size of the storm,” DeJong said. “We had a lot of (carbon monoxide) calls for furnaces. The electric garage doors (at the fire station) went out, so we had to use the chains.

“I’m ecstatic with the amount of moisture, but it doesn’t take away the fact we were extremely dry going into it,” he said.

The snowfall indirectly caused a kitchen fire in a house on Blue Creek Road in the Elk Creek Fire District. A homeowner had left the gas burner in the on position, and when the electricity came back on, the flames contacted some flammable material near the stove. Further details were not available.

To the rescue

Foothills Fire & Rescue was hit hard with car crashes on I-70 over the weekend, responding to 13 major calls, when it usually gets about two or three, said Jeannette Kehoe, business manager.

Highland Rescue, a volunteer-staffed ambulance service, made 17 runs from Friday through Sunday. Most of them were on Saturday, said Alan Feldman, an EMT captain.

The storm brought out good Samaritans like Matt and Kate Johnson and a young man named Colbey (last name unavailable) who shoveled out the parking lot for the elderly people living at Green Ridge Meadows in Evergreen, reported resident Linda Mowry.

On Friday, owner Susie Schmittel decided to keep the Montessori School of Conifer open because of reports that Jefferson County Schools were staying open. “When I looked out my window, it just didn’t add up. I’m guessing that whoever decided to open the schools lived in Denver,” she said. Only three of 22 kids showed up.

View from the top

Mike Wurthman, who lives at 9,000 feet on Conifer Mountain, had been doing without electricity since his power went out on Friday afternoon, April 17. The power came back on Tuesday around noon.

Wurthman had a generator hooked up and running two refrigerators and a freezer, but it wasn’t powerful enough to run the water pump. He experienced a burning desire to get in the Jacuzzi and ease his aching, snow-shoveling muscles.

Sunday night, Wirthman was able to hook up the generator to the TV and get some news for the first time. It was hard to get news about school closings without using a computer, Wurthman said.

“If you turn on the radio, they tell you the school closings are on the website,” he said. “That doesn’t help if you have no power.”

Cathy Shelton, who lives in Evergreen Highlands, reported about 36 inches of snow over the weekend. She was rejoicing in the new snow blower her family purchased last year.

The Sheltons were without power from about 4 p.m. Friday until 3 p.m. Sunday. The cable Internet came back on Monday.

“The only concern was running out of wood,” Shelton said. “We had plenty of food. When the lights flickered, I filled the bathtub. We are on a well, so we lose the pump.”

With the wood stove going, staying warm enough wasn’t a problem. “The funny thing is, we go camping for two or three days and don’t miss (TV). But when you are sitting on your couch and the TV is dark, it’s really different. You just don’t know what’s going out there so much,” Shelton said. “We read books and played cards. But mainly we did a lot of shoveling and snow-blowing so we weren’t snowed in.”

Betsy Butler, who lives on Deer Road in Brook Forest Estates in the Clear Creek County part of Evergreen, was without power until noon Tuesday. Prior to that she was melting snow in order to flush the toilets and was taking showers at an Evergreen rec center. She had words of praise for the Clear Creek snowplow operator who kept the road open all weekend.

Jeff Ashford measured about 5 feet of snow at his house on Brook Forest Road.

“It was way above my waist — big, heavy, wet stuff,” he said. By Tuesday afternoon, IREA had restored power to his house.

“I would really like to have a shower right now,” Ashford said before the power came back on. “It’s kind of like camping at my house.”

Closings included the Evergreen Park and Recreation District, which shut down at noon Friday and reopened at noon Sunday. A leaky roof caused substantial damage to the reception area and ruined one computer in Wulf Recreation Center, said John Skeel, executive director.

Earth Day Fair won’t be rescheduled

As the snow piled up, organizers canceled the Earth Day celebration scheduled for Saturday at the Lake House. Because so many exhibitors and volunteers are involved, the event won’t be restaged another day, said Cathy Shelton, a spokesperson for Earth Day and Beyond. The event has been canceled only one other time — in 1999 — since its inception 20 years ago.