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Spring snowstorm shuts down Denver

By Shawn Price and Andrew V. Pestano   |   March 23, 2016 at 10:43 PM
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DENVER, March 23 (UPI) -- A spring blizzard shut down much of Denver on Wednesday and left tens of thousands without power.

City officials closed Denver International Airport and cancelled about 1,300 flights, as well as Interstate 70 and parts of Interstate 25, disconnecting the city from the rest of Colorado. Most schools were closed as well.

"Some parts of the Denver area — like the eastern area — are getting one to two inches per hour," National Weather Service forecaster Jim Kalina said. "Other areas are getting maybe half an inch or less an hour."

DIA did reopen after 7 p.m., but only a few flights are expected to fly in or out for the rest of the night.

The heavy snowfall postponed bus service and light rail ran on a reduced schedule through the day.

"The good news for the (afternoon) commute is that, given all the closures, we believe traffic will be light," said Shailen Bhatt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation. "However, we would like to get the message out there that it's a dangerous situation on the roads."

More than a foot of snow fell in some areas affected by the storm system. A blizzard warning continues for northeast Colorado, and parts of southeast Wyoming, the western Nebraska panhandle and northwest Kansas.

Boulder, Colo., has already seen a foot of snow. Snow has been falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour in some areas. Cheyenne, Wyo., has also seen similar heavy snowfall.

Up to 16 inches of snow were recorded in California's Sierra Nevada on Tuesday morning. The winter storm will move through a 2,000-mile long stretch from the Rockies to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes before reaching northern New England on Friday. A winter storm warning is in effect throughout the affected stretch.

The majority of school districts and government offices under the blizzard warning were closed across the Colorado Wednesday. The Colorado Senate in Denver and several universities, including the University of Northern Colorado and the University of Colorado Boulder, also were closed.

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