Snowstorm takes aim at Plains, Midwest

March 23, 2013

An early spring snowstorm forced the cancellation of more than 100 flights at Denver International Airport and closed several roads Saturday as it moved eastward, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places.

The snow started falling about midnight in northeast Colorado and then moved into northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska.

Ten to 15 inches of snow had fallen by Saturday afternoon north of Interstate 70 in northwest Kansas and northeast Colorado, with another 1 to 2 inches expected in the area, said Ryan Husted, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Goodland, Kan., where 15 inches of snow had fallen.

The storm also dropped up to seven inches of snow in southwestern Nebraska before tapering off Saturday afternoon, said David Pearson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service near Omaha.

Husted said winds gusting at speeds of up to 45 mph were creating snow drifts of 2 to 3 feet in parts of Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.

Interstate 70 had been shut down Saturday from Denver to Colby, Kan., because of poor visibility. The northbound lanes of I-25 also were closed south of Fort Collins, Colo., because of multiple accidents.

“It’s a mess here,” said Jerry Killingsworth, a National Weather Service meteorologist also based in Goodland, Kan. “Heavy, wet snow, tree limbs down.”

As the system moved eastward, it threatened to inconvenience fans attending the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Kansas City. Scott Blair, a meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, Mo., said light showers and drizzle began switching over to snow Saturday afternoon in Kansas City and western Missouri. The heaviest snowfall was expected overnight, with up to 6 inches forecast for the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Dan Gavitt, vice president of the NCAA men’s basketball championships, said teams and officials already are on-site and that no game delays are anticipated.

“This region routinely has winter snow and has the appropriate equipment and procedures to manage these winter conditions,” Gavitt said in a written statement. “We encourage fans planning to attend games to pay attention to the weather, use good judgment and follow any directions from local authorities regarding travel and weather.”

Denver International Airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said about 106 flights have been canceled, many of them involving commuter jets headed to nearby destinations or mountain towns.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said up to a foot of new snow in the mountains could create dangerous avalanche conditions.

— Associated Press

Jason Keyser in Chicago, Thomas Peipert in Denver, David Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., and Margery A. Beck in Omaha contributed to this report.

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