Colorado Smothered by Blanket of Snow

A blizzard has left parts of Colorado buried under many feet of snow. In some communities, food stores are running out of the basic necessities. Ranchers are worried that livestock will starve and freeze amidst massive snow drifts.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The blizzard that paralyzed the plains states has claimed at least a dozen deaths and knocked out electricity to tens of thousands of people in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. Snow drifts are as high as houses in some places. And here's another effect: livestock are stranded in snow-covered fields, which explains why National Guard helicopters dropped hundreds of half-ton bales of hay. They're hoping to avoid a repeat of a blizzard 10 years ago that killed 30,000 animals.

We have a report this morning from NPR's Jeff Brady, who is in one hard hit town, Lamar, Colorado.

JEFF BRADY: Military Humvees are slowly making their way to farm and ranch houses to check on residents. Snowmobiles are taking medical supplies to those who need them. The big worry right now is the cattle. Some ranchers haven't seen their livestock since last weekend. Without food soon, the animals will starve, assuming they haven't already frozen to death.

(Soundbite of traffic)

BRADY: The good news is trucks are once again running along the major north-south highway 287, that means much needed supplies are on the way to places like Lamar, a small town of 10,000 people in southeastern Colorado.

(Soundbite of traffic)

BRADY: The Thriftway parking lot was packed with four-wheel drive trucks. Jennifer Smith(ph) and her stepmother drove 17 snow-packed miles to get here.

Ms. JENNIFER SMITH: The drifts are 18, 15 to 18 feet high, up half the sides of the building. It's just beautiful, though, isn't it? On the road.

BRADY: Inside the store, owner Shawn Oxley(ph) is trying to keep the shelves full, but the only delivery truck that's come by so far is carrying Coca-Cola, and it's stuck in the parking lot outside.

Mr. SHAWN OXLEY (Thriftway Owner, Lamar, Colorado): Milk is very difficult to get. Meat is very difficult to get. Bread is almost impossible to get.

BRADY: Oxley says he's working with a skeleton crew; some of his employees who live farther out haven't dug out of their homes yet.

Unidentified Woman: Are you out of bread?

Mr. OXLEY: I am, probably until tomorrow morning at the six o'clock. Sorry about that. How are the roads that way?

Unidentified Woman: They're bad.

Mr. OXLEY: Are they?

Unidentified Woman: Very bad.

Mr. OXLEY: I don't think there's a loaf of bread in town.

BRADY: So are you getting any sort of assurances when trucks might be able to get through here?

Mr. OXLEY: I think I've got one in town here, but I don't know if he knows where we are. We've think he's in town, but he can't find us. And he's a new driver. Never been up this way, and right now everything looks the same outside; it's all white.

BRADY: A little stressful?

Mr. OXLEY: Very stressful. I have never felt so hopeless in my life. I really haven't.

BRADY: This is the first time Helen Ibarra(ph) and Adolfo Juarez(ph) have had a chance to buy groceries. They were stuck in their house for two days. He spent much of that digging out the driveway and then the cars. Her Chevy Blazer was the priority. Ibarra is an employee at a nearby nursing home and says she was expected to be at work.

Ms. HELEN IBARRA: I didn't miss any, he did. Because he tried to get me out first, because, you know, we have elders up there that need us to go work. So we - I had to get to work. One way or the other, I was going to go to work.

BRADY: Juarez hopes he can get to work soon, too. In the meantime, he's worried about their house.

Mr. ADOLFO JUAREZ (Stranded): Well, the roof, I've got about maybe two-foot of snow on top my roof. I hope it will not snow anymore for a little while, because I don't know if the roof would handle that much weight. There's a lot of weight on it.

BRADY: Forecasters say showers are expected later this week, but the temperature is rising above freezing. That means rain instead of more snow.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Lamar, Colorado.

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