Colorado weather: Blizzard conditions delay over 400 DIA flights and shut down Eastern Plains highways

· Dec. 26, 2023, 8:18 am
20230312-SNOW-PLOW-RABBIT-EARS-PASS-120230312-SNOW-PLOW-RABBIT-EARS-PASS-1Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The post-Christmas storm has dropped snow along the eastern part of Colorado.

Updated: 1:32 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2023

A blizzard pounded a large swath of northeastern Colorado on Tuesday, shutting down a stretch of I-70 for several hours and disrupting dozens of flights at Denver International Airport. 

The National Weather Service said harsh conditions could last through 5 a.m. Wednesday morning along the Palmer Divide and northeastern plains. Snow accumulations of two to six inches are possible in the hardest-hit areas, along with wind gusts up to 55 miles per hour. 

The highest areas of expected impact will be Monument Hill along the Palmer Divide, I-70 east of Deer Trail, Limon and Akron, according to NWS. 

Federal airline regulators placed Denver International Airport on a brief ground stop around 7 a.m. Tuesday morning due to the weather. By early afternoon, at least 405 flights were delayed, according to the tracking website FlightAware. At least 22 were canceled. 

United and Southwest, DIA’s two largest carriers, accounted for the bulk of the delays. SkyWest, a United Airlines partner, accounted for most of the cancellations. 

“We continue to have all-hands on deck as our Employees work to safely take care of our Customers during this busy holiday travel season,” a Southwest spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. 

Drivers also saw tough conditions. 

Transportation officials closed I-70 through the Eastern Plains for several hours due to icy roads and reduced visibility. The closure halted traffic along both east and westbound lanes from three miles west of Watkins to the Kansas state line. 

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed more than a dozen other major roadways across the Eastern Plains. Closures included U.S. 6 in both directions from Sterling to Nebraska and U.S. 36 from Byers to Kansas.

Officials urged residents to avoid travel during the brunt of the storm. 

“If you don't have to travel, especially if you're going to the northeastern portion of the state, avoid it,” said Kenley Bonner, a forecaster with NWS’s Boulder office.

Metro Denver and Colorado Springs will see winter weather through Tuesday morning, according to the NWS. The rest of the day should be cloudy, with high temperatures above freezing. 

Vail and central mountain communities have a chance for snow showers most of the day Tuesday. Grand Junction should see sunny skies and a high around 34.

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