Winter Storm Clobbers Front Range, Closes DIA, Portions Of I-70 And I-25

Photo: Winter Storm March 23 Snowblower In Denver
Clearing snow in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

Major freeways -- Interstates 25 and 70 -- are both closed in all directions out of Denver. A blizzard warning remains in effect for the Denver metro and parts of the Plains through 6 p.m. Wednesday. 

Classes were canceled across the area, including at major school districts like Denver Public Schools, Cherry Creek Schools, and Jefferson County.

Delays At DIA

A power outage Wednesday morning at DIA first caused hundreds of delays. Service was restored around 9:30 a.m., but by 11 a.m. the FAA decided to hold all traffic because of blowing snow, airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said. Then, at 12:18 p.m., officials closed the airport "until further notice."

"Weather and visibility are such that it is not safe for aircraft to arrive or depart at this time," the airport tweeted.

More than 700 flights have been canceled, which is about half of all the scheduled flights at DIA. And Pena Boulevard is impassable due to the weather. Officials advised travelers currently at the airport to "stay put" until conditions improve.

The airport has closed at least a handful of times because of snow. First in 2001, then again in 2003 and 2006.

Power Outages

Photo: Shoveling Snow On 23rd Avenue Denver March 23 2016
Shoveling snow on 23rd Avenue in Denver on Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

The storm knocked out power to about 190,000 Xcel Energy customers across the metro area. A bit more than half, or 100,000 accounts, have been restored, says the company. But 90,000 are still without power and the company can't say when they'll get power back. 

"Not seeing much relief from the storm to start working that number down at this point," Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz said earlier this morning. Most of those outages are on the north side of the metro, including in Boulder and Arvada.

Dangerous Roads

Photo: Pedestrian walks on snowy March morning (HV)
A pedestrian crosses Colorado Boulevard at Colfax Avenue in Denver Wednesday morning March 23, 2016, as heavy snow blanketed the metro, closed schools, delayed flights and prompted CDOT to enforce traction laws on interstates and major arteries through the city.
  • I-25 from northern Colorado into Wyoming; Castle Rock to Colorado Springs
  • I-70 from Silverthorne to Denver; Aurora to Kansas; Federal Blvd to Pecos St
  • I-76 from Lochbule to Nebraska border

Traction laws are in effect for commercial and passenger vehicles on major highways in metro Denver.

RTD Delays

Photo: Winter Storm March 23 RTD Bus Not In Service Park Hill Denver
An RTD bus crawls along 23rd Avenue in Denver during a March 2016 snow storm.

Snow Totals

NWS has reported snowfall totals ranging from 0.5 inches near Grant all the way to 20 inches in Sugarloaf before 8 a.m. this morning. Here's a look at where things stand:

Chart: Front Range Snow Totals 8 a.m. 3.23.16 (staff)
Chart: Highest snow 3 p.m. 3.23.16
Snow totals are sometimes measured in multiple sites in the same city; Broomfield appeared twice on the list for highest snow totals, but only its highest total is listed here. 

Forecast

Photo: Winter Storm March 23 Plowing Snow At East High School Denver
Plowing snow in front of Denver's East High School on March 23, 2016.

Tonight, the chance of snow drops to a 20 percent chance of snow before 11 p.m. It will be cloudy, then gradually becoming partly cloudy, with a low around 21 degrees and very windy, with a north northwest wind 27 to 37 mph decreasing to 10 to 20 mph. Winds could gust as high as 60 mph.

Thursday forecasters say the sun will return, with a high near 52 degrees and winds out of the west northwest at 7 to 10 mph becoming south in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 17 mph.

Here's how this morning looked on Twitter:

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