‘Major’ winter storm hits Colo., Wyo.
Traffic accidents, flight cancellations and up to 18 inches of snow
updated 1 hour, 15 minutes ago
CHEYENNE, Wyo. - A major early season snowstorm on Wednesday caused flight cancellations at Denver's airport and made for ugly commutes in Colorado and Wyoming. Blizzard conditions and up to 18 inches of snow were forecast in some areas.
The region's first heavy snow of autumn prompted officials to close schools in Wyoming and was blamed for dozens of accidents in the state and in neighboring Colorado.
Up to 18 inches of snow was forecast in Denver and along the northern Colorado Front Range. As much as 4 feet was possible in the Colorado mountains. Cheyenne was expected to get at least 14 inches before the storm moves off Thursday afternoon.
The National Weather Service predicted similar amounts for a wide area of the Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado plains. The storm also brought snow to northern Utah’s Wasatch Front.
Most of the roughly 70 accidents in Wyoming happened on Interstate 80 before the Wyoming Department of Transportation closed the highway between Cheyenne and Laramie early Wednesday. Nine crashes caused injuries but no one was killed.
“People are just not slowing down enough,” department spokesman Bruce Burrows said.
In Denver, slick roads caused rush-hour fender-benders Wednesday morning. Schools in Colorado and Nebraska closed pre-emptively as the forecast called for heavy precipitation Wednesday and Thursday. A Colorado Springs homeless shelter has decided to allow people who have been kicked out for breaking rules to return because of the inclement weather.
"It's a major early season storm," said Mike Weiland, National Weather Service meteorologist in Cheyenne. "The results are going to be quite a bit of snow and a fairly long duration snow event."
United Airlines and Frontier Airlines, which both have hubs in Denver, were relaxing some fees for changing travel plans in light of the storm forecast.
Cheyenne already has had a snowy October, with 14 inches so far. The average for the month is 3 inches.
Wind could close roads
Meanwhile, wind was expected to be a concern on the flatlands.
“When we start getting those wind gusts on Thursday — gusts up to 40 mph — it’s going to create some blowing and drifting snow and that’s going to cause some problems,” said Dan Deal, with the Weather Service in Cheyenne. Drifts several feet deep and wind chills as low as 10 degrees were forecast.
Whether highways remain open depends a lot on the wind. In Wyoming, large storms often kick up strong winds that cause constant drifting over roads.
"A lot of snow we can deal with pretty well. If the wind comes up, it makes it very difficult to keep up, even with our best technology and our best efforts," said Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Burrows.
?Major? winter storm hits Colo., Wyo. - Weather- msnbc.com