Winter storm whips Colorado plains, closes I-70 Denver to Kansas
DENVER A fast-moving winter storm darting across Colorado’s eastern plains Saturday closed major highways with whiteout conditions, high wind and drifting snow.Interstate 70, a major cross-country route, was closed for about 200 miles in both directions from just east of Denver to Colby, Kan., because of blowing snow and slippery pavement, according to Colorado and Kansas highway officials.Between Denver and the beginning of the highway closure, about 35 cars collided in a pileup in whiteout conditions Saturday morning on an icy section of I-70. No major injuries were reported.A city bus was called in to transport drivers from the scene to a nearby motel as officials worked to clear the wreckage.
Blowing snow disrupted not only traffic on I-70 but also on state highways and local roads on the plains, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Mindy Crane said.The National Weather Service included most of eastern Colorado, from the eastern edge of the Denver area to the Kansas border, 150 miles away, in a blizzard warning Saturday morning. The agency reported wind gusts of 68 mph. Official snow totals had not yet been tallied, but about 6.7 inches were reported at Buckley Air Force Base as of 7 a.m.For Denver and the heavily populated corridor along Interstate 25 from Fort Collins to Pueblo the Weather Service predicted blustery winds with just a trace of snow. Even before noon, Denver was under blue skies and seeing plenty of sunshine.At Denver International Airport, which saw thousands of passengers stranded by a 45-hour shutdown during the pre-Christmas blizzard earlier this winter, flights continued operating through the morning Saturday with some delays.
Airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said the airport got about an inch of snow and saw 40 mph winds early Saturday, but most flights continued operating. Some delays were expected for flights destined for cities further east, such as Chicago, as conditions there deteriorated, Cannon said.Joe Hodas, spokesman for Denver-based Frontier airlines, said the weather posed few problems, but the airline encountered another, unexpected glitch. A power failure near the airport shut down automated reservation systems temporarily, creating long lines for passengers checking in. The airline delayed its 8:30 a.m. flights by about an hour as desk agents handled ticketing manually, he said.”It’s been a crazy winter,” Hodas said.In Nebraska, a 272-mile stretch of westbound Interstate 80 was temporarily closed from North Platte to the Wyoming border Saturday afternoon because of gusts and drifting snow. The interstate was also closed in both directions between Sidney and Wyoming, about 60 miles.
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