DENVER, March 19 (UPI) -- A blizzard warning was posted Wednesday for Colorado's Front Range and eastern plains where the Denver airport was closed along with scores of schools and businesses.
Although late winter and even spring snowstorms are not uncommon in Colorado, the magnitude of this one took officials and residents off guard. More than two feet of snow fell Tuesday and another 12 to 18 inches was possible through Wednesday, forecasters said.
A record blizzard was possible before the storm moved eastward across the plains states turning to rain in warmer temperatures. Temperatures remained near freezing Wednesday in Denver as snow continued to fall.
"The storm is beginning to diminish in size but the intensity remains fierce," said KUSA-TV meteorologist Nick Carter. He forecast blowing and drifting snow with a high in the Denver area just above freezing.
The blizzard pounded the foothills west of the Interstate 25 corridor that runs north from New Mexico through Colorado to Wyoming. Sections of Interstate 70 in the Denver area were closed.
About 4,000 stranded passengers spent the night at Denver International Airport, many of them sleeping on cots as they waited out the storm. It was the first major closure since October 1997 when another blizzard hit the Mile High City.
"I wish I were back in Maui," stranded passenger Marvin Wortmann told The Rocky Mountain News as he tried to find a ride to a local hotel.
The snowstorm was so intense Tuesday that the city of Aurora prohibited all travel except for emergency vehicles and snow-removal equipment. Streets remained largely deserted Wednesday because of school and business closures.
Crews were working to restore power to about 8,500 residents in the Northglenn and Interlocken areas near Denver. The American Red Cross opened shelters throughout the area for people who were without power during the night.
Schools and state offices in Cheyenne, Wyo., about 90 miles north of Denver were also closed by the massive storm. Snowdrifts of 3 to 7 feet were reported near the Colorado-Wyoming border.