Major snowstorm barrels down on Central Plains

CHICAGO Sat Feb 4, 2012 4:31pm EST

Passengers wait in security lines at the Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, February 4, 2012.  REUTERS/Nathan Armes

Passengers wait in security lines at the Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado, February 4, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Nathan Armes

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - A major winter storm that dumped two feet of snow on the Denver area marched eastward on Saturday, buffeting the Central Plains with heavy snowfall and wind gusts of 25 miles per hour.

The snowstorm that pummeled eastern Colorado and western Nebraska on Friday - closing long stretches of Interstate 70 - moved into Nebraska, dropping roughly nine inches of snow on the Grand Island and Omaha areas, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Ken Harding.

Forecasters expect roughly three more inches of snow in the area.

The storm has targeted central and southwest Iowa, and is expected to drop up to 8 inches of snow through Saturday afternoon, Harding said.

Officials issued a winter storm warning as far east as Des Moines and Ames, Iowa, Harding said, and travel is difficult along a corridor of Interstate 70 in western Kansas and all of Interstate 80 from western Nebraska through Des Moines, Iowa.

"It is weakening as it moves farther east into some warmer air," Harding said. "It will bring less and less snow and it will turn into rain when it gets into Illinois."

There have been no major weather-related incidents on Saturday, Harding said.

The storm was caused when a warm, moisture-laden air mass from the Gulf of Mexico collided with colder northern air over southeastern Colorado to unleash the snowstorm east of the Continental Divide.

On Friday, that storm dropped a foot of snow on the Denver metropolitan area, with up to 2 feet reported in the foothills west of the city, causing over 600 flights to be canceled at Denver International Airport, Harding said.

The airport continued to experience delays on Saturday.

The storm also dumped heavy snow on parts of western Nebraska, with more than a foot measured on the ground in the Sand Hills region about 40 miles north of North Platte, the Weather Service reported.

(Reporting By Eric Johnson; Editing by Paul Thomasch)

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