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Major snowstorm pummels Colorado, closing roads

Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel reports.

Updated at 6:31 p.m. ET: A powerful storm walloped eastern Colorado and western Nebraska with the region's first heavy snow of the new year on Friday, closing schools, disrupting hundreds of flights at Denver International Airport and creating blizzard conditions on the High Plains.

A foot of snow piled up in the Denver metropolitan area, with up to 2 feet reported in the foothills west of the city, said Frank Cooper, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder.

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.

Nathan Armes / Reuters

Hack Hyland, of Hyland Outdoor, shovels the sidewalk of a client whom he often helps during snowy weather, near downtown Denver on Friday.

The state Legislature in Lincoln, canceled public hearings in anticipation of the storm, which interrupted an unusually snowless western Nebraska winter.

"It's a pretty big system," weather forecaster Cory Van Pelt in North Platte told Reuters. "We've had some accidents that closed some roads."

By the time the storm wraps up Saturday, Denver could see up to 2 feet in some areas, with up to 4 feet in some areas of the foothills, according to the Weather Service.

The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel reports.

"Roads across the entire Front Range, southwest Colorado and the central mountains are icy and snowpacked, and high winds are making travel and snow removal difficult," the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a media release, according to The Denver Post.

The snowfall spread Friday afternoon to extreme northwestern Kansas, as forecasters predicted accumulations of 6 to 12 inches there through Saturday morning.

Blizzard or winter storm warnings were posted for northwestern Kansas on Friday, but Weather Service meteorologist Mark Buller said forecasts of winds of 20 to 30 mph may be downgraded.

Updated at 2:49 p.m. ET:  Airlines reported more than 600 flight cancellations Friday at Denver International Airport due to a powerful winter snowstorm that swept across Colorado as it headed east.

The storm brought blizzard warnings to eastern Colorado and western Kansas, and storm warnings for southeast Wyoming and western Nebraska.

The storm stretched as far south as New Mexico, where Department of Transportation reported difficult driving conditions on several state highways because of the winter weather, leaving highways snow packed and icy.

Barry Guiterrez / EPA

Arvada Firefighters Jeremy Gacceta, 34, left, and Tristan Exner, 34, right, clear snow from the front of Arvada Fire Station 7 in Denver.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed portions of Interstate 70 east of Denver International Airport to Limon, stranding truckers. Interstate 25 north and south reopened after numerous accidents were cleared.

The National Weather Service said snow was falling at 2 inches an hour on the Eastern Plains, producing some blizzard conditions.

According to The Weather Channel’s real-time updates, roughly 8 inches of snow had fallen at the Denver airport by early afternoon, with reports of 3 to 4 feet of snow in the foothills.

Original story: DENVER-- A powerful winter storm swept across Colorado on Friday as it headed east, bringing blizzard warnings to eastern Colorado and western Kansas, and storm warnings for southeast Wyoming and western Nebraska.

The storm stretched as far south as New Mexico, where Department of Transportation reported difficult driving conditions on several state highways because of the winter weather, leaving highways snow packed and icy.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed portions of Interstate 70 and Interstate 25, the two main arteries crisscrossing the state. The National Weather Service said snow was falling at 2 inches an hour on the Eastern Plains, producing blizzard conditions.

According to The Weather Channel’s real-time updates, roughly 8 to 10 inches of snow has fallen in Denver with an additional 6 to 10 inches of snow expected.

"Roads across the entire Front Range, southwest Colorado and the central mountains are icy and snowpacked and high winds are making travel and snow removal difficult," the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a media release.

Colorado State Patrol spokesman Josh Lewis said non-essential staffers were told to come in at 10 a.m. and Gov. John Hickenlooper told state workers in the Denver metro area to stay home until 10 a.m. unless their jobs involved health and safety.

Transportation spokeswoman Becky Navarro said Friday eastbound I-70 was closed from Aurora to Limon and a ramp was closed on Interstate 25 in Denver because of numerous accidents.

One of the largest snow totals Friday morning was 18 inches in Pinecliff west of Denver, and snow totals were mounting rapidly along the Front Range and eastern Colorado. 

The National Weather Service said snow will be moderate at times on Friday in Wyoming and Nebraska. However, winds could gust up to 35 mph and produce blowing snow from the southern Laramie Range to Sidney, Neb.

Cities in the Front Range urban corridor from Colorado Springs in the south to Fort Collins and Greeley in the north were under a winter storm warning.

‘Hammered’
The storm warnings prompted shoppers to stock up on food and liquor, while Colorado lawmakers canceled legislative work on Friday.

Stores in Denver reported brisk business Thursday night.

"The cheese wall is hammered, bread's kind of hammered, milk's kind of low," said Aaron McFadden, a manager at a King Soopers store.

Ted Vaca at Argonaut Liquor said customers were snapping up all kinds of drink.

"It was more like a Friday than a Thursday," he said.

The storm forced the cancellation of hundreds of arriving and departing flights at the Denver airport that had been scheduled through Friday night.

"Denver International Airport up to 505 cancellations. Average arrival delays at 1:49 according to the FAA," The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel posted to this Twitter feed Friday.

A Learjet ran off a runway at the Pueblo airport as the storm moved in, but investigators hadn't determined if the weather was a factor. None of the 10 people aboard were injured, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Many school districts announced they would be closed on Friday, including the two largest, in Jefferson County and Denver.

The storm could break into the top 10 list of the heaviest snowstorms in Denver history. The city's 10th biggest dumped 22.1 inches in 1912, NWS meteorologist Chad Gimmestad said.

Denver's record is 45.7 inches from a five-day wallop in 1913.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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