Updated: February 3, 2012 at 12:00 am
A storm that slammed northern and eastern El Paso County Thursday night and Friday is expected to stick around until Saturday morning, National Weather Service forecasters predict.
"It's a slow moving storm, so it's not ending as abruptly as we would like," said Larry Walrod, a weather service forecaster.
Despite the slow movement, just before rush hour Friday afternoon, the weather service downgraded blizzard warnings to winter storm warnings, citing increased visibility and winds below 35 mph. The winter storm warning remains in effect in northern El Paso County, the eastern plains and parts of Teller County until 11 p.m. Friday.
Walrod said snow intensities will vary through Saturday morning with the storm slowly moving out of the region by midday.
Snow pics from around the Pikes Peak region ... send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Downtown Colorado Springs received a wintry dusting Friday morning that made roads slick and got people talking. Some areas of the city got a few inches, mainly in northern and eastern neighborhoods. School districts in some areas closed for the day.
East of the city, snow closed Highway 24 at Woodmen Road. In the high country, portions of Interstate 70 were closed.
I-70 and several other routes were closed across the eastern plains. Highway 94 eastbound from Calhan was closed for much of Friday. Just after 2:30 p.m., a Colorado State Patrol spokesman said about 50 miles of highway 94, from Colorado Springs to Punkin Center, was still closed.
The State Patrol reported no reopenings at 5 p.m.
In Calhan, residents had to contend with 45 mph gusts, deep drifts and 17 inches of new snow.
But then again “contend” might be the wrong word. Calhan seems to be taking the snow in stride. When asked how things were going for the Calhan Fire Department Friday morning, Chief Shane Gattis kept it simple.
“It snowed,” he said, jokingly.
He said the fire department had only helped out in one snow-related incident on the roads Friday morning.
Although the National Weather Service reported 17 inches in Calhan at 8 a.m. Diane Hudson, one of the managers at the Fuel B’s gas station nearby, said that the wind was a greater problem.
“I don’t think we have quite 17 inches,” she said. “But people have been coming into the store saying they have three, four, six foot drifts in their driveway.”
Audra Goss, an owner of A & D Hay & Cattle Company in Calhan, was glad for the February snow.
"It's a good thing for us with all the pastures," she said Friday. A drought in El Paso County has left eastern plains ranchers with bleak prospects for summer hay production.
Goss has 98 head of cattle safely penned up just off the Falcon Highway.
For Goss the calving season starts in mid-January, and she has 12 calves in her livestock pen who braved the storm. With wintry temperatures and gusts, calves ears and tails can freeze, Goss said. The calving season will continue for another 60 to 90 days.
"Mamas have a harder time giving birth in this kind of stuff," Goss said.
For the parts of the county that saw little snow Friday the concern was not for cattle but for school delays and closures. Districts including Colorado Springs School District 11 canceled classes.
Battling it out for second place for most snowfall in the Pikes Peak region were Woodland Park and Monument. The weather service reported Woodland Park had close to 14 inches while spotters in monument reported 16 inches by midday Friday.
On the plains, Peyton got seven inches and drifts as deep as two or three feet, according to the weather service.
The Colorado Springs Airport announced some delays and cancellations. Check flycos.com for updates. Several flights in and out of Denver International Airport were canceled this morning. Go to flydenver.com for more information.
Roads were treacherous north of Colorado Springs with slow-going on Interstate 25 into Denver.
Colorado Springs police were only responding to the most serious wrecks Friday morning. Drivers involved in crashes or collisions that do not involve injuries, alcohol or damage to property should fill out their own accident reports within 72 hours.
Report forms can be picked up at local police stations or can be downloaded here.
Snowfall is expected to continue into Friday night, although the biggest problems will come in the form of wind gusts, not more snow, said Jennifer Stark, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.
"The problem today is going to be areas of gusting winds, and blowing snow," she said.
Gazette reporter Ryan Maye Handy contributed to this report.