DENVER (AP) — Heavy snow up to three inches an hour fell across parts of Colorado's Front Range on Saturday as people faced another blast of winter weather that could bring two feet or more to some areas by the beginning of next week.
The latest snow started in northern Colorado on Saturday afternoon and began moving south, National Weather Service meteorologist Bernie Meier said. It's expected to last through Monday.
The bands of heavy snow have been fickle, dropping more than a foot of snow in some areas overnight, while missing other areas altogether, National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Koopmeiners said Saturday. "If you get under a band, you can get a ton of snow," Koopmeiners said.
Most of the mountain snow is expected in north-central Colorado, where the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said there was already 10 inches of new snow around Steamboat Springs and six inches around Aspen and Vail.
Some grocery stores were packed on Friday as people stocked up for the weekend, emptying bins of vegetables and rows of soup.
Denver International Airport officials said 180 flights were canceled Saturday, about 12 percent of scheduled flights, before the heavy snowfall after forecasters warned up to 14 inches of snow can be expected to blanket the airport by Monday morning.
One of the biggest risks to airport visitors are the roads getting to the airport, which are getting slick and icy, airport officials said. The airport said it has snowplows, broom trucks, runway sanders, snow melters and 4,000 gallons of chemicals on hand to clear the runways for planes if the snow gets worse, as forecasters predict.
Road conditions in the Denver area became hazardous Saturday afternoon and were expected to remain a problem into Monday morning's rush hour, the Denver Post reported.
The paper said several metro municipalities declared accident alerts Saturday evening amid reports of scores of multicar collisions. A pileup with as many as 30 vehicles was reported on Colorado 93 in Arvada.
The Colorado Department of Transportation closed several major highways, including southbound Interstate 25 near the Wyoming state line because of multiple accidents, and U.S. 6 to the gambling casinos in Black Hawk.
The word from the Colorado Department of Transportation: Don't leave home if you don't have to venture out.
As snow accumulated in southern Colorado later Saturday, the Red Cross opened a shelter in Walsenburg, situated near Interstate 25, to aid travelers stranded by the wintry weather.
The group reported that strong winds, blinding snow and icy roads have caused hazardous driving conditions on I-25 between in the south central part of the state between Pueblo and Trinidad.
The weekend forecast didn't deter lines of skiers who headed up the mountains on Saturday to take advantage of the new snow following a so-so season. Traffic jams forced department officials to set up traffic holds so vehicles wouldn't get stuck heading up to the Interstate 70 mountain tunnels. Ski resorts say the badly needed snow is just in time for students planning their spring break.
The snowstorm was expected to hit the Front Range hard on Saturday night, with up to 14 inches of snow over much of the area. Up to 2 feet of snow is expected along the Front Range foothills by Monday, making driving treacherous.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has at least 600 snowplows on standby, with plans to stop traffic from backing up heading up steep inclines like the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel. Drivers are being asked to follow snowplows up the mountain if roads become too slick, especially ski traffic during the morning rush and the evening trip home for those who venture out.
Forecasters are also warning that another snowstorm is expected by the end of next week.