Storm System Brings Parts of the West to a Halt Ground and air searches continue in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico, looking for people who might still be stranded in the New Year's blizzard. Throughout the area, high winds have piled up snowdrifts more than 10 feet deep. At least a dozen people have died; thousands may be without power for days.
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Storm System Brings Parts of the West to a Halt

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Storm System Brings Parts of the West to a Halt

Storm System Brings Parts of the West to a Halt

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

Ground and air searches continue in Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico today. They're looking for people who might still be stranded in the New Year's blizzard. High winds piled up snow drifts more than 10 feet deep. At least a dozen people died, thousands may be without power for days.

NPR's Howard Berkes has this report.

HOWARD BERKES: This was a storm for the record books, according to one national weather service forecaster. It blasted the high plains with a paralyzing mix of heavy snow and high winds. Motels filled with the stranded. Snowplow drivers became rescuers. National Guard troops patrolled in trucks with tank-like tracks.

Greg Romano is the weather service spokesman.

Mr. GREG ROMANO: This system was a very slow-moving storm and that's a lot of the reason why you saw such heavy amounts of snow. For example, we saw 26 inches in Kansas and Sharon Springs, 48 inches in Chuchura(ph), Colorado.

BERKES: The snow alone was challenging enough for emergency workers in Colorado, where more than 700 people sought refuge in shelters. A hundred were rescued from cars and trucks on highways and country roads. The wind may travel and rescue even more difficult and dangerous according, to Dick Vnuk at the Colorado Division of Emergency management.

Mr. DICK VNUK (Colorado Division of Emergency Management): It's not the snow. I mean it's 30 inches of snow. That wasn't the problem. The problem was the drifting. I mean, you're dealing with drifts of up to 10,12,14 feet.

BERKES: Winds of 40 miles an hour and more whipped up those drifts. They were deep enough to bury cars and cattle. Today, Vnuk says the search continues for people and animals stranded by the storm.

Mr. LENOOK: Civil air patrol is going to fly again today. We have a National Guard cover, a National Guard helicopter on standby. And Department of Transportation will continue their snowplow efforts.

BERKES: Some roads are just one snowplow blade wide today. The storm hit the region Thursday, leaving more than 30 inches in parts of Kansas, 18 inches in Oklahoma, 10 inches in Minnesota, and two feet in New Mexico.

Inner state 48 Albuquerque was choked with vehicles abandoned in a storm. That sent 50 high school students returning from a ski trip into the Best Western Rio Grande in Albuquerque.

Manager Rebecca Plutino says the kids and the rest of the hotel's stranded guests helped each other get through their predicament.

Ms.. REBECCA PLUTINO (Hotel Manager): They were starving, so they all came down to the restaurant together. And so we had - the guests really enjoyed it. I think it picked up the other people that have been stranded here since Friday because of the roads closed, I-25 north and I-40.

BERKES: With snowplows making progress today, the travelers will be able to get moving again. But power is still out for thousands of people, especially in the eastern parts of the region, that's where freezing rain fell and power lines snapped. Power is expected to be out in some areas for a week or more.

Howard Berkes, NPR News.

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