DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- Government offices and schools were closed and mail delivery suspended for a second day Thursday after a powerful blizzard dumped more than 2 feet of snow along Colorado's most populous region.
Denver, Colorado Springs and other cities along the Rocky Mountain Front Range were virtually ghost towns, with cars and SUVs slipping, sliding and crawling through thick snow toward the suburbs Wednesday.
Pedestrians navigate a snow-covered street in downtown Denver late Wednesday. More snow is on the way
Some 4,700 people hunkered down overnight at Denver International Airport, where flights in and out were canceled, spokesman Steve Snyder said.
John and Summer Cox rest on a Denver International Airport baggage carousel Wednesday while waiting out the blizzard.
"It feels like I'm a refugee," said Lisa Maurer, a graduate student at the University of Wyoming who was stuck at the airport while on her way home to Germany.
Bus and light rail service in a six-county region was suspended. The State Patrol reported a rash of collisions, some involving several vehicles, but no fatalities.
More than 30 inches of snow fell in the mountains and up to 2 feet fell in the Denver metro area, with snow expected to let up by noon Thursday. Winds cut visibility and whipped up drifts several feet high on the plains.
Gov. Bill Owens declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, which assisted dozens of motorists on the highways around Denver and delivered diapers, formula and bottled water to the airport.
Long stretches of Interstates 70 and 25, the main east-west and north-south routes through the Mountain West, were closed. Interstate 76 was closed from Denver to Nebraska.
"They pulled everyone off the highway," said Leon Medina, manager of a truck stop on Interstate 25 in Walsenburg, about 130 miles south of Denver. "Cars are all around the building. Trucks are all over, trucks and cars pulled into ditches."
A firefighter carries a child to shelter Wednesday after a minor car accident on an icy road in Colorado Springs.
At least 270 people took refuge at seven American Red Cross shelters in the metro area, though that number was expected to rise as motorists arrived by the busload early Thursday, said Robert Thompson, spokesman for the Mile High chapter.
"It's just amazing how many people are still out there," Thompson said.
Shelters also were open in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, and the Red Cross provided 140 cots for nearly 350 people stranded at a Greyhound bus station in downtown Denver, Thompson said.
Weather Service program manager Byron Louis said it was the most powerful storm to hit Colorado since March 2003, when a massive blizzard dumped up to 11 feet of snow and was blamed for at least six deaths.
Sylvia Vozarya struggles to clear snow from her car so she can get on the road in Denver on Wednesday.
Major malls closed early Wednesday, and one, Flatirons Crossing Mall in Broomfield, northwest of Denver, offered warmth for motorists stranded along U.S. 36, the major link between Denver and Boulder.
Mail service was canceled in the eastern half of the state because roads were impassable for mail carriers getting to work and for trucks delivering mail four days before Christmas.
"We don't want to take the risk of clogging up the system just by being out there," said Al DeSarro, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman in Denver. "We're considering delivering on Sunday to make up for what's sure to be a backlog of mail."
Denver International Airport was closed to all flights at mid-afternoon Wednesday, and more than 1,000 flights were canceled through Thursday. No time was set for runways to reopen.
United Airlines canceled more than 670 flights into Denver and 160 that had been scheduled to take off before noon on Thursday. Frontier Airlines canceled up to 190 flights. (Check nationwide flight delaysexternal link)
"I'm just happy to be alive. It was a terrifying drive," Sara Kelton said of her two-hour slog over slick, snow-clogged roads to get to the airport.
Thirteen hours after he left his Denver office for a bus ride home to Boulder, Alan Barr was stuck at a Red Cross shelter in Denver, barely closer to home than when he left for work.
He trudged into the shelter at about 12:25 a.m. Thursday with other discouraged riders faced with the prospect of spending the night in a college gymnasium.
"Days like today are an exception," he said. "I believe in public transportation."
Fellow rider Matt Notter of Boulder summed it up:
"It was comical for a while," he said. "Then we realized, this is an all-night thing."
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
Airports in Chicago, Atlanta and the New York City area also reported delays as holiday travelers flooded concourses.
Ice and snow cover an airplane Thursday at Denver International Airport.
In Denver, hundreds of people were in line at the ticket counters, hoping to rebook a flight out by Christmas. Most of those stranded when the storm hit on Wednesday were left on standby with little hope of finding room on another plane.
Outside, an army of snow plows worked to clear the runways so the airport could resume at least limited operations around noon.
"I just want to get home to see my family," said Atlanta businessman Scott Carr, standing in the Frontier Airlines line that wrapped around to the opposite side of the terminal.
He booked four flights on three different airlines to increase his chances of making it home for Christmas and was considering driving to Kansas City to catch a flight.
"If I have to drive, at least I'll be getting closer," he said.
United Airlines spokesman Jeff Kovick said it could be days before some people are able to get on a flight. The 2,000-plus canceled flights at Denver, the nation's fifth-busiest airport, caused a ripple effect that disrupted air travel around the country just as the holiday crush began.
Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas said the airline has 65,000 bumped passengers to move systemwide and the airline was 90 percent booked for the holidays. "Do the math," he said.
According to a survey by the Travel Industry Association and the AAA, about 65 million people will journey by air and car between December 23 and January 2, more than the record 63.5 million who traveled last year.
An estimated 4,700 travelers spent Wednesday night at the airport. By Thursday evening, about two-thirds of them had found hotel rooms, but others still slept on cots in the airport, in chairs or on the floor.
Weather was making trouble for Christmas air travelers elsewhere in the country, too.
Flights into Chicago's O'Hare International Airport were experiencing delays of almost three hours, according to Federal Aviation Administration.
Flights into Newark's Liberty International Airport were running about an hour behind schedule and departures were up to 90 minutes behind schedule because of weather and congestion problems.
Philadelphia International was showing half-hour delays.
In Atlanta, Georgia, departures were being delayed by up to 45 minutes because of winds and low clouds.
The Colorado storm, Colorado's worst since a March 2003 blizzard, brought life to a standstill for 3.8 million people along the Front Range -- a 170-mile urban corridor along the eastern edge of the Rockies that includes Denver.
Some mountain areas got more than 3 feet of snow, and up to 25 inches fell in the Denver metropolitan area. Bus and train service was shut down. Police and National Guard soldiers rescued hundreds of people stuck in cars.
In Wyoming, a woman died while walking for help after her car became stuck in the snow, officials said. In Kansas, a woman was hit by a tractor-trailer on an icy road.
Michael Brendle, left, and his sons dig out their car from a snowbank on Interstate 25.
Denver's normally bustling downtown began showing signs of life as the sun came out Thursday afternoon. Mail delivery across the region was still suspended, however, and many malls were closed on what should have been one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Snow builds up on vehicles Thursday at Denver International Airport.
Aviation analyst Michael Boyd criticized the airport's handling of the snowstorm.
"With six runways, not even one can be open within a few hours? There's something wrong at DIA," he said. "Minneapolis doesn't have that problem, Salt Lake doesn't have that problem."
Airport spokesman Steve Snyder said plows were running during the storm, but the snow came fast and winds whipped drifts up to 5 feet high under the wings of grounded planes.
Plow managers expected to have two runways cleared by noon Friday. Other areas that needed to be cleared included deicing areas, taxi areas and stretches of tarmac. Ticket crews, Transportation Security Agency workers and other logistics still had to arranged before the airport could open.
"You can't just turn an airport on with a switch," Snyder said.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
Thousands of travelers whose flights were canceled by a blizzard that backed up air traffic nationwide were stuck on standby, trying to grab a rare empty seat on planes that were mostly booked.
"I just want to go home. I just want to see my family," said Jennifer Long of Denver, who was hoping to catch an afternoon flight to New Orleans, Louisiana, the city she left after Hurricane Katrina.
The busiest carrier at Denver International, United Airlines, planned to operate a full schedule of 900 departures and arrivals Saturday for the first time since the storm blew in Wednesday, burying the city in 2 feet of snow, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said. Flights were running "close to on schedule," she said.
The airport, the nation's fifth-busiest, had five runways open Saturday and expected to have all six runways cleared by Sunday, but there was no telling when the backlog of passengers would be cleared out.
"You combine what would have been a busy holiday as it was, and you throw in a few thousand more stranded passengers, it's obviously busy," airport spokesman Steve Snyder said.
The jam in Denver backed up flights around the country heading into one of the busiest travel times of the year, and low visibility in Atlanta, Georgia, and wind in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Friday added to delays. About 9 million Americans planned to take to the air during the nine-day Christmas-to-New Year's period, the AAA estimated.
By Saturday, New York businessman Todd Pavlo and his 16-year-old son had spent two nights on airport benches at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. They waited and hoped through seven standby flights to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they were going to see family.
"At this rate, I'm going to be here well into January," said Pavlo, 47, who ended up booking two one-way tickets to Salt Lake -- for $700 each -- on a flight leaving Sunday. "Now everybody is starting to get irate. ... We're all sitting together. We're actually living together following gate to gate all day long."
Overseas, fog had grounded flights for most of the week at London, England's, Heathrow Airport, stalling tens of thousands of people who had planned on taking flights at Europe's busiest airport. The fog finally started to lift Saturday, and British Airways pledged to operate 95 percent of its scheduled flights.
In South America, flight cancellations and hours-long delays caused by overbooking and equipment problems had haunted Christmas travelers across Brazil since Tuesday. Even the Brazilian air force was called in to help move passengers with its fleet of eight passenger jets.
At Denver, more than 3,000 incoming flights were canceled or diverted during the 45-hour shutdown that began Wednesday.
An estimated 4,700 travelers camped out at the airport that night, and close to 2,000 spent Thursday night on the hard floors and a few cots, hoping to get a place at the front of long lines at ticket counters. Snyder said he did not know how many were there overnight Friday but said it was fewer than the night before.
On Saturday, travelers waited in long lines that snaked around the terminal or sat on cots, working on laptops or playing computer games.
Passengers with long-standing reservations filled most of the outbound flights. Airline officials told unhappy travelers at the airport that they cannot simply bring in extra planes to clear the backlog, and that it could be Christmas -- or later -- before they can catch a plane.
Jerry Escobedo, a contract worker at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, said he waited on hold for 90 minutes to talk to a Frontier Airlines agent to learn that the Seattle, Washington, flight he was booked on for Christmas Eve was the earliest he was going to get.
"It's been an interesting experience, I guess you could say. You just have to make the best of it," he said.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
â€¢ Snow storm moves eastward after pounding Denver
â€¢ About 300 flights canceled at Denver International Airport
â€¢ Foot-plus of snow forecast for Denver through Saturday
â€¢ Areas west of Denver report 28 inches of snow
DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- Denver's second big snowstorm of the holidays eased in the area Friday afternoon but continued to buffet the Plains as it moved east.
The storm had grounded scores of flights in the Colorado capital Friday during one of the busiest travel periods of the year and blanketed streets that never got plowed the last time.
At Denver International, the nation's fifth-busiest airport, the major airlines canceled 15 percent to 20 percent of their flights Friday -- nearly 300 departures -- to ease congestion.
But officials were optimistic they would avoid a rerun of the pre-Christmas blizzard that unloaded 2 feet of snow and shut down the vaunted "all-weather" airport for two days, stranding 4,700 passengers and snarling holiday travel around the country.
A United Airlines jet prepares to depart Denver International Airport on Friday
The National Weather Service issued a tornado watch there at 12:40 p.m. (1:40 p.m. ET). At 3:47 p.m. (4:47 p.m. ET), the watch was upgraded to a tornado warning, which lasted for less than an hour.
Winter storm warnings extended from New Mexico to South Dakota, and blizzard conditions were forecast for the eastern Colorado plains and parts of southwestern Nebraska, western Kansas and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.
Denver's second snowstorm in a week blankets CNN.com user Bill Stough's street.
Tornado watches were issued for parts of Texas and Oklahoma on Friday evening as the leading edge of the storm approached. A tornado killed one person when it struck a home in west Texas, authorities said.
In Texas, President Bush and first lady Laura Bush were moved to an armored vehicle on their ranch Friday when a tornado warning was issued in the central part of the state, the White House said
The latest storm in Colorado hit on Thursday morning, and the snow was expected to be spread out over two or three days, making it easier for plows to keep up. A foot or more of snow was forecast in Denver through Saturday.
"That's something we can handle," Frontier Airlines spokesman Joe Hodas said.
An unidentified woman struggles to reach a newspaper box in Denver early Friday.
A weather slowdown at Denver has relatively little nationwide ripple effect on airlines other than United and Frontier, which account for 80 percent of Denver's traffic, said David Castelveter of the Air Transport Association, an industry group.
A 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70, the main east-west highway through the state, was closed from Denver to Colby, Kansas. Greyhound canceled all bus trips out of Denver.
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens again declared a state of emergency, putting the National Guard on standby. During the previous storm, troops rescued motorists and delivered diapers, blankets and baby formula to stranded travelers at the airport
At the airport, check-in counters that had been packed Thursday with travelers rushing to beat the storm had normal lines Friday morning.
The storm stretched across the Rocky Mountains into the western Plains, where forecasters warned that the gusts could whip up blinding whiteouts.
New Mexico interstate shut
In New Mexico, Interstate 40 was closed from Albuquerque to Santa Rosa, and numerous crashes were reported, after a storm swept through.
More than an inch of snow per hour fell Friday morning in Kansas. Forecasters predicted 15 to 20 inches in some areas.
The 7 inches of snow that had fallen in Cheyenne, Wyoming, by Friday morning gave the city 24 inches total in December, topping its nearly century-old record of 21.4 inches for the month.
Cheyenne residents also braced for another storm as the opening of state government offices in Cheyenne was delayed Friday morning and streets there were snow-packed and icy. Parts of Interstate 25 were closed.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press
(Novum/AP) - Het dodencijfer van een winterstorm die sinds donderdag het midden van de Verenigde Staten teistert, is maandag opgelopen tot twaalf. De meeste slachtoffers vielen in het verkeer op gladde wegen. In de staat Kansas kwamen 44.000 woningen zonder stroom te zitten, in Nebraska 15.000 woningen.
Bij Denver zochten zondag reddingsvliegtuigen de wegen af naar gestrande reizigers. In sommige gebieden lag de sneeuw drie meter hoog, zeiden reddingswerkers. De storm, die aanvankelijk woedde in een gebied van Canada tot Mexico, ging zondag nog gepaard met hevige sneeuwval van Minnesota tot Kansas.
De gouverneur van Kansas kondigde de noodtoestand af voor gedeelten van de staat. Er vielen in totaal tien doden bij verkeersongelukken in Colorado, Texas en Minnesota, onder wie vier zondagochtend in Minnesota. In Texas kwam een man om het leven in een tornado; in Kansas werd een persoon het slachtoffer van een technisch mankement in een generator.