Colorado snowstorm triggers blizzard warnings, slows air traffic

DENVER Mon Feb 25, 2013 6:32am EST

DENVER (Reuters) - A wind-driven snowstorm blanketed eastern Colorado on Sunday, creating blizzard conditions on the High Plains and prompting the cancellation of 200 flights in and out of Denver International Airport, authorities said.

Governor John Hickenlooper ordered all non-essential state workers to report to work two hours later than scheduled on Monday to give Denver snow plough drivers more time to clear city streets.

By early evening, 10 inches (25 cm) of snow had accumulated in the Denver metropolitan area, as snowfall tapered off. Blizzard conditions will remain through the night on the eastern Colorado plains, weather forecasters said.

"It's still snowing out there and there's been a lot of blowing and drifting that's made the roads tough," National Weather Service meteorologist Brad Gimmestad said.

The Denver International Airport remained open but travellers could expect delays of up to two hours as crews de-iced departing aircraft and ploughed the runways, said spokeswoman Laura Coale. The airport typically handles about 1,500 flights on a Sunday.

The Western region was pummelled while New England dodged what forecasters had feared would become a major snowstorm for the third consecutive weekend.

The New England storm blew further east and left much of the region coping only with a slushy mix on Sunday.

Boston's Logan airport reported only minor delays, except for flights to storm-socked Denver, and major regional utilities NStar (NSARO.PK) and National Grid (NG.L) reported only scattered outages.

The snow was a welcome sight for farms in eastern Colorado, which has been in the grip of a multi-year drought.

Areas south and east of Denver on the plains were under a blizzard warning until 11 p.m. local time (0100 EST Monday), the weather service said.

A deep, low-pressure system near the Four Corners borders of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah had stalled, dumping heavy snow in eastern Colorado, the weather service's Jim Kalina said.

"That setup makes it a snow event mostly for areas east of the Continental Divide," Kalina said.

No road closures were in effect, although roads were snow packed and icy throughout the state, said Mindy Crane, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A snow plough was involved in an accident with another vehicle near Empire, putting the motorist in the hospital, she said.

The storm front was forecast to move southeast out of Colorado and into the Texas panhandle by Monday, the weather service said.

(Additional reporting by Ross Kerber; Editing by Edith Honan and Vicki Allen)

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