DENVER – A powerful snowstorm blanketing the Denver area and northeastern Colorado snarled traffic Sunday and caused the cancellation or delay of hundreds of flights in and out of one of the nation’s busiest airports.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina said the storm dumped 7 inches of snow in parts of Denver by late Sunday morning, and more is expected through Sunday night.
Some areas in the foothills west of the city received 19 inches to 21 inches of snow, and Kalina said 14 inches have fallen in Fort Collins.
The storm, which has packed high winds and caused blizzard conditions at times, is expected to make way for sun and warmer temperatures today.
Laura Coale, a spokeswoman for Denver International Airport, said about 200 departures and arrivals have been canceled, and numerous flights have been delayed by up to two hours.
The airport averages 1,700 flights a day, but there are between 1,500 and 1,600 flights on an average Sunday.
Lisa Reid told The Denver Post she was stranded at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport on her way home to Penrose, but her spirits remained high as she tried to “embrace the adventure.”
“I knew it was going to snow, but didn’t expect it to be severe until I saw the predictions last night,” she said
Meanwhile, Ann Williams, a spokeswoman for Denver’s Department of Public Works, said the city has deployed 70 snowplows to deal with the slow-moving system, which has caused numerous accidents on Interstate 25 and slowed traffic on Interstate 70 in the mountains.
“We’re seeing a lot of icy roads,” she said. “The pavement is very cold, and the snow is bonding to the pavement, so we have a lot of slick conditions. We are trying to stay with it. The snow is coming down fairly fast and fairly heavy.”
For only the third time since a string of storms and hard cold caused dangerous driving conditions on residential streets in the winter of 2006-07, the city has deployed four-wheel drive pickup trucks equipped with plows into residential neighborhoods, Williams said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation also is using 80 plows to clear the city’s main traffic arteries, and crews on 12-hour shifts plan to work through Sunday night.
After the storm leaves Colorado, workers will remove snow from the sides of highways and will concentrate on the heavy ice that is expected to build up on the area’s bridges, CDOT spokeswoman Mindy Crane said.
The storm also is causing problems at Denver homeless shelters.
The Denver Rescue Mission downtown opened its chapel early Sunday, so homeless men have a place to go to get out of the cold, said spokeswoman Alexxa Tavlarides, who expects the shelter to fill as the day progresses.
This is the first winter since a Denver ordinance went into effect prohibiting anyone from unauthorized camping on public or private land.
“We want people to get out of the cold,” Tavlarides said. “As the temperatures drop, it becomes dangerous.”