Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Big Storm Rolls into the Mountains

A powerful winter storm brought heavy snow and strong winds to Colorado on Wednesday, prompting airlines to cancel dozens of flights and triggering the partial closure of Interstate 70 on the state’s Eastern Plains.

The National Weather Service said up to 2 feet of snow could fall in the foothills west of Denver and up to 3 feet was expected in northern Colorado.

Up to 20 inches was forecast for the eastern half of the state from Denver to the Kansas border some 150 miles away.

United Airlines, the busiest carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled all of its flights into and out of Denver from 1 p.m. until midnight MST. United spokesman Jeff Kovick said he wasn’t immediately sure how many flights were affected. Kovick said the flights were canceled early so passengers could be rebooked. Frontier planned to cancel up to 40 flights Wednesday afternoon, spokesman Joe Hodas said.

Most of eastern Colorado was under a blizzard warning, and winter storm warnings were issued for much of the rest of the state.

Early reports showed between a half-inch to 5 inches in eastern Colorado as the storm first worked its way across the mountains.

Eastbound lanes of I-70 were closed for 90 miles from Limon to the Kansas border. Westbound lanes were closed from the Kansas line to Burlington, about 13 miles. Other roads on the plains were closed as well.Winds up to 30 mph could pile up snow in deep drifts and make travel dangerous, forecasters said.

The storm dropped more a foot of snow in the state’s southwestern mountains Tuesday, on top of the foot or more than had fallen there over the weekend.Durango Mountain Resort reported 17 inches of snow Tuesday and Wolf Creek ski area had 19 inches of new snow.

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