DENVER - A storm that has dumped more than a foot of snow in the Rocky Mountains is heading east and is forecast to bring the first major winter storm of the season to the central Plains and Midwest.
The snow arrived in Denver before dawn on Wednesday and moved out across the Colorado plains, where wind gusts of up to 40 mph will blow the snow around, creating zero visibility at times.
From there the storm is expected to move across Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa and then Wisconsin and Michigan. Blizzard conditions are also expected in some of those states. Up to a foot of snow was forecast in parts of northern Michigan by Friday.
Meanwhile, a new storm system that has moved into the Pacific Northwest is expected to bring up to 2 feet of snow in the Cascade Mountains by Thursday morning.
The storm hitting Colorado was delaying flights at Denver International Airport an average of 30 minutes, but only a handful of flights have been cancelled. No other major airports had yet been affected by the storm.
The storm also could cause travel delays on major highways such as Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 in Colorado and New Mexico. In Arizona, interstates 40 and 17 were icy and blowing snow reduced visibility.
Up to 6 inches of snow are expected along the Front Range region, which is home to 4.1 million of Colorado's 5 million residents. Some parts of the mountains could get as much as 2 feet.
The snow is a gift for ski resorts in Colorado, Utah and Arizona right before the busy holiday week. The moisture is also a relief after an extended wildfire season in Colorado.
"We are behind but this stuff is certainly helping," Kyle Fredin, a National Weather Service forecaster in Colorado, said.
Utah ski areas have received 12-20 inches of snow in the past 48 hours and should get more, said Jeff Zimmerman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.
The Utah Avalanche Center has issued a warning for dangerous backcountry snowslides in northern Utah's mountains.
The snow Arizona received is adding to an already thick snowpack.
Two recent storms had combined to blanket the mountains north of Flagstaff with 2 feet of snow, about 20 inches in Flagstaff and along the Mogollon Rim, and about 6 inches in Prescott. The snowfall put Flagstaff above its nearly 17-inch normal for December with the snowiest month yet to come in January.