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Blizzard shuts down Denver flights, roads

Runways closed at Denver International Airport

A powerful late-season blizzard arrived on schedule, burying portions of the Rockies and Plains in more than 2 feet of snowfall over the weekend.

As of Sunday night, Denver International Airport (ICAO code: DEN) remained open, but runways were closed and airlines ceased operations. Crews were still clearing runways as of early Monday morning. Peña Boulevard, the main road leading to the airport, may still be impassable.

The airport received a storm total of 27.1 inches of snowfall, the fourth largest on record for a single storm, with 20 of those inches piling up Sunday. Scottsbluff, Nebraska, had a record daily snowfall of 4 inches Sunday.

Wind gusts of almost 50 mph created whiteout conditions at the airport and on the roads. Sections of I-70 are still closed east of Denver, as well as I-25 north of Fort Collins, heading into Wyoming. Drivers will also run into closures on I-80 from western Nebraska into southeastern Wyoming. Some secondary roads have also been shut down across the region. Also, about 23,000 customers have no electricity in the Fort Collins area because of the storm.

In addition to issues on the roads and runways, Union Pacific Railroad (NYSE: UNP) officials posted a customer alert Sunday saying they activated their winter weather action plans and remain focused on delivering freight as quickly as possible. Crews were working hard to clean switches and clear accumulating snow off tracks. However, delays of 24 to 48 hours were possible for shipments moving through the impacted region.

The storm is fading, and conditions should gradually improve Monday.

Other weather this week

Heavy rainfall and strong to severe thunderstorms could soak the South, especially Tuesday and Wednesday. Potent wind gusts, large hail and tornadoes could develop in places from Kansas, Oklahoma and eastern Texas to the lower Mississippi Valley, Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast. Look for periods of flash flooding and potential road closures in these areas.

Look for weather updates throughout the week on the FreightWaves website and social media accounts.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.