AURORA | The end result of the snowstorm barreling toward Aurora and the Front Range is still up in the air as weather forecasters work to predict snow totals, and the region readies to get walloped.
According to the National Weather Service now in earnest begins overnight Friday and continues through early Monday. As of early Friday, the National Weather Service was calling for between 7 inches and almost 2 feet through Sunday in Aurora. Temperatures are expected to be in the 20s and 30s.
Gov. Jared Polis said Thursday he is activating about 50 National Guard troops to help first responders conduct any search and rescues required during a winter storm expected to hit the Front Range this weekend.
Polis urged residents during a virtual news conference to stay home except for emergencies during the height of the storm, which he said is expected to deliver a mix of rain and snow in the Colorado Springs area to the south and possibly two feet of snow to the north near the Wyoming border.
Polis said the state agriculture department is on standby to help farmers and ranchers touched by the storm.
“You don’t want to be one of those people to be searched down and rescued,” Polis said, urging residents to stay put. “Use your common sense. If it starts to snow, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation has transferred crews and equipment from the high country to the Front Range and will prioritize keeping interstates open. But it will institute safety closures if needed, said John Lorme, the agency’s director of maintenance and operations.
Lorme noted that hundreds of motorists were stranded during a 2019 blizzard in which National Guard soldiers and airmen helped local law enforcement rescue people stranded in their cars.
Some of those stranded were in Aurora and just east.
Polis urged those with COVID-19 vaccine appointments this weekend to check with their providers for any cancellations. Colorado has received the week’s shipments of vaccines from the federal government, so supplies won’t be disrupted, he said.
“If they have canceled, don’t panic, your vaccine is still there,” the governor said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is warning people not to travel over the weekend due to the storm. If you must go out, the agency advises arriving at your destination no later than Friday night. Sign up for travel alerts here or check road conditions here.
Aurora will likely be put on “accident alert” status during the storm, which alters how local police respond to some traffic incidents.
When the city is on accident alert, police will not respond to car accidents unless one of the following conditions is met: the accident involves injuries, is a hit and run, the driver is inebriated, one of the cars is not drivable, or one of the drivers doesn’t have insurance.
If one of aforementioned conditions isn’t met, police instruct drivers to swap contact information, fill out an online report and handle the ordeal themselves.
Regional Transportation District officials anticipate the weather may cause delays on bus and light rail routes, too. Waits for buses may be up to 30 minutes longer depending on how much snow accumulates along routes. For updates, you can follow RTD on Twitter or sign up for alerts.
“Light rail will be running ‘sweep trains’ — two on the W Line, two on the R Line, then southwest through downtown — throughout the night to keep the overhead wires from icing up, so the wires are clear for morning service pullout,” the agency said in an email.
The COVID-19 testing sites at the Aurora Center for Active Adults and the Centennial Center Park will be closed on Saturday and Monday due to weather, according to the Tri-County Health Department’s website.
Other testing sites, including at Water World and the Douglas County Fairgrounds, could still be open. Tri-County recommends you check sites’ websites or call ahead before heading out.
COVID-19 vaccination clinics will likely be impacted too.
UCHealth is closing all of its clinics this weekend. That’s about 2,500 appointments the health care provider said in an email Thursday.
For people who have received the first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, the delay should not be a problem, as the second shot can be effectively administered up to six weeks after the first.
Cherry Creek School District spokesperson Abbe Smith said the district is monitoring the weather and will make a decision to call a delayed start or a snow day if the weather is bad enough, but is not making any decisions in advance. March 12 is a teacher work day at Aurora Public Schools with no school for students.
Mile High Behavioral Healthcare, which runs a local network of homeless shelters, said in a text alert that the Aurora Day Resource Center will be expanded into an overnight shelter during the storm. The ADRC is located at 13387 E 19th Pl.
Mile High also runs the city’s “Emergency Shelter,” which is in a warehouse space at 3293 Oakland St.
The network told homeless residents in the text alert that its street outreach team will also continue to support people living in tents and campers during the storm.