Snowstorm blankets Denver area just days after balmy weather

DENVER Wed Oct 26, 2011 3:44pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama steps out of his limousine into the snow at Buckley Air Force Base near Denver, October 26, 2011.  REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama steps out of his limousine into the snow at Buckley Air Force Base near Denver, October 26, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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DENVER (Reuters) - A heavy, wet snowstorm descended on the Denver area early on Wednesday morning, causing widespread power outages and numerous car crashes and minor injuries in the Centennial State, officials said.

Just two days after record high temperatures, six inches of snow fell in the Denver area forcing the closure of roads in the mountains and eastern plains. Another two to five inches is expected before the storm moves out on Wednesday evening, according to the National Weather Service.

There were no fatalities but numerous car crashes and slide-offs causing minor injuries, the Colorado State Patrol said.

Eighty-seven-thousand customers east of the continental divide and north of Denver were without power, public utility company Xcel Energy, Inc. said in a statement.

Most of the outages were due to snapped tree limbs falling into power lines. The heavy, wet snow piled onto trees still full of their fall foliage. The weight of the snow snapped tree limbs which severed power lines.

The snowstorm did not stymie a trip by President Barack Obama to Colorado, where on Wednesday he laid out plans to ease the burden of student loans. The President stopped in Denver as he wrapped up a swing through western U.S. states that will be vital to his reelection campaign in 2012.

Denver had reached a record high temperature of 80 degrees on Monday. The storm started out as rain Tuesday night but turned to snow as the temperature plummeted overnight.

Denver International Airport reported no significant delays as snow removal crews worked overnight clearing runways, airport officials said in a statement.

As temperatures continued to drop during the day, some flights might be delayed as planes are de-iced, airport officials said.

Interstate 70 over Vail Pass was closed on Wednesday morning as snowplow drivers cleared the icy and snow-packed highways, said Mindy Crane, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A state highway north of Fort Collins, Colorado, was closed to the Wyoming state line, she said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Jerry Norton)

(This story corrects the spelling of plains in paragraph 2)

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