Heavy snow blankets Colorado, prompts flight cancellations

Reuters News

3/9/2013 5:17:06 PM - Reuters News

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - A powerful Pacific storm dumped heavy snow across Colorado on Saturday, leading to the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Denver International Airport and the postponement of a Major League Soccer game.

No part of Colorado was spared from the fast-moving storm, which triggered blizzard conditions on the state's eastern plains, the National Weather Service said.

A foot of heavy, wet snow is forecast to fall in the Denver metropolitan area, with higher totals expected in the foothills west of the city before the system moves out toward Kansas and Nebraska in the evening, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kari Bowen.

More than 500 flights in and out of Denver International Airport were canceled on Saturday, although the facility remains open, said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery.

"Many of the canceled flights are commuter flights that go to mountain towns," Montgomery said.

But air passengers can expect delays of up to 30 minutes as crews de-ice departing aircraft, he said.

The Colorado Rapids postponed their Major League Soccer game against the Philadelphia Union until Sunday, the team said on its website.

Blowing and drifting snow prompted the closure of a 180-mile (290-km) stretch of Interstate 70 in both directions between Denver and the Kansas state line, the Colorado Department of Transportation said in an alert.

Westbound lanes of Interstate 70 have also been closed at the Eisenhower Tunnel in the mountains 50 miles west of Denver. "Conditions are rapidly deteriorating in many areas of the state," the department warned.

The heaviest snow accumulations are forecast in the southwest mountains, with up to 2 feet of snow predicted, Bowen said.

Winds gusts up to 35 mph prompted the weather service to issue a blizzard warning for a dozen eastern Colorado counties, where travel is being discouraged.

The snowfall was good news for farmers in eastern Colorado, who have been in the grips of a multi-year drought.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Peter Cooney)