“Deadly Snow-Apocalypse ’24” Batters Teller County/Ute Pass Area; Kills Several Residents

Trevor Phipps

Regions Gripped by Emergency Declarations, Power Outages and Avalanche Scares

Trevor Phipps

Photos By Dan Williams

A lengthy dig-out period continues from a huge snow beast that bombed the region and created havoc for several days, and now has escalated fears over flooding, infrastructure devastation, avalanches and more storm-related fatalities.

In addition, the pocketbooks of area governments may take a beating in what some describe as the most devastating local spring storm in recent history.  The toll on local workers and residents has been staggering, with specific impacts not quite finalized.

Still, even with these dooms-day accounts, capped by the unfortunate death of several Teller residents, the recent snow assault wasn’t a big surprise.

Teller County residents can’t say they weren’t warned as forecasters saw a huge storm making its way to the state just before the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. And this time, the meteorologists actually called it right.

In fact, the most recent weather event that local news stations are calling “The Spring Storm of 2024” riddled the Ute Pass region with the most snow it has experienced at one time since 1997. And parts of the region had snow totals that met or exceeded the numbers that fell during the last major area storm in the ‘90s.

Many parts of the region saw nearly four feet of snow fall in a matter of two days making travel impossible across the Teller high country. With the combination of extremely snowy conditions and multiple power outages, emergency declarations were declared by the city of Victor, the city of Cripple Creek and Teller County.  And on March 19, Green Mountain Falls joined the emergency declaration party, with reports that its overtime budget may be in peril. Public works employees accumulated 100-plus hours within a several-day period, according to Mayor Todd Dixon.


In fact, this recent storm marks the second time this season in which Teller County apparently took the  brunt of the storm rampage, compared to other spots across Colorado. According to the National Weather Service, the Ute Pass region got slammed, receiving between 29 inches to 42 inches of snowfall between within a three-day period.


The Colorado Springs and Denver metro areas received a little less with amounts ranging between one and two feet. Other mountain towns got more than Teller County with Aspen Springs near Central City getting 61.5 inches and Nederland receiving 53 inches.


And to make matters worse, not only did Teller residents have to spend hours digging themselves out of their own driveways, more than 1,000 residents dealt with long power outages. In addition, approximately 2,000 residents in the Cripple Creek and Victor area were left without electricity for nearly 15 hours.

A Spree of Emergency Declarations


On March 14, Cripple Creek Mayor Annie Durham issued an emergency declaration due to the power being out in the entire city for hours and more snow slated to fall that night. The heavy snowfall caused several downed power lines from Cripple Creek to Canon City, but the power was 100 percent restored by the (March 17), the Sunday following the storm.


The Teller County Office of Emergency Management and the Chamonix Casino were set up as warming shelters for those who lost heat since they had operating generators. Other situations in the city added to the turmoil when the Golden Nugget had to be evacuated due to carbon monoxide concerns from a blocked vent and the historic “Vic Lady” house, operated by the city, suffered from burst pipes.


According to Teller County Commissioner Dan Williams, a number of homeless people who were stranded, showed up in Cripple Creek during the storm.  They were given shelter at the city’s fire station. Local restaurants also pitched in to help feed those seeking warmth in the city’s temporary shelters.


The city of Victor also issued an emergency declaration during the storm as the snow made travel for essential services between Victor and Cripple Creek nearly impossible. A day after the storm, Victor city officials said that they had the roads 90 percent plowed, but they were struggling due to some of the plows and equipment breaking down during the storm.


Some Victor residents, meanwhile, had to face the realities of no electricity. And at one point, the town was in fear of losing all water as well because water could not be pumped between a reservoir and a wastewater treatment plant without power.


The Teller County commissioners also issued an emergency declaration in order to get assistance from federal and state entities. With all of the county’s snowplows working around the clock, there were some subdivisions where people were still trapped due to tall snow drifts.


Over the weekend, immediately following the storm, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division (CPW) brought snow cats and snowmobiles to get to remote subdivisions in the county and transport people out for emergencies. According to the commissioners, there were many people (including vacationers) that were stuck in rural parts of the county. But according to officials, those with medical emergencies had to take priority in getting rescued due to limited resources.

 Calls for Help Escalate; Several Storm-related Deaths Reported
Local first responders fielded a bombardment of calls over the duration of the storm and Teller County Search and Rescue was deployed at least a half a dozen times. County officials also said that a few people passed away from heart-related issues during the storm as well.


In fact, the emergency declaration for Teller County remained in place for a lengthy period. “We have punched roads openings to all subdivisions,” County Commissioner Dan Williams said, several days after the storm.  “We have pushed are plow crews and heavy machines to their limits, they have been working around the clock for 4 ½ days.”

One worker, in fact, according to a television report, had to be rescued from a post- avalanche accident.  The storm, in fact, left the county and lower Ute Pass in extreme avalanche danger, with at least two known avalanche incidents occurring in southern Teller and Cascade. More could continue with the volume of snow on top of residents’ roofs, say local officials.