Denver airport to reopen after blizzard prompted shutdown
March 23 (Reuters) - Denver International Airport was set to reopen on Wednesday night after a blizzard triggered its first shutdown due to severe weather in a decade, airport officials said.
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The storm, which hit Denver early on Wednesday, prompted some 1,350 flight cancellations, briefly knocked out power and stranded travelers. It also caused ripple effects across the country as planes awaited clearance to depart for snowbound Denver.
"We've got blowing snow out there, wet snow on the ground, icy conditions, low visibility, so we're fighting all those things," Denver airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said.
Montgomery said it marked the first time the airport had been forced to shut down due to heavy weather since 2006, when Denver was blanketed with several feet of snow.
See images of the chilling blizzard:
The airport said it planned to reopen and resume flight operations at 7 p.m.
The closure came one day after a suspicious package was found at the airport's main terminal, prompting a brief evacuation amid heightened security in response to deadly suicide bombings in Brussels.
A main roadway to the airport was impassable for hours, stranding passengers in terminals.
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A power outage around 5:20 a.m. MDT shut down many of the airport's systems for about an hour, Montgomery said, preventing crews from fueling and de-icing aircraft.
A total of 700 departing and 646 arriving flights had been canceled by about 6:15 p.m. MDT (1900 GMT), according to flight tracking website FlightAware.com.
Blowing and drifting snow prompted the closure of Interstate 70 just east of Denver to the Kansas state line, the Colorado Department of Transportation said.
Stretches of Interstate 25, the main north-south highway through the state's urban corridor, were also shut down from Colorado Springs to the Wyoming border due to the weather and multiple accidents.
"When tow trucks and fire trucks are getting stuck it's bad," the Colorado State Patrol said on Twitter.
Separately, 118,000 customers in the Denver metropolitan area were without electricity due to damaged power lines, fallen trees and high winds, said Xcel Energy spokesman Mark Stutz.
The Denver area was expected to see as many as 12 inches (30 cm) of snow on Wednesday, with the storm moving across northern Colorado, the National Weather Service said.
The weather system was expected to move to the upper Midwest as it heads toward New England, the weather service said. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker declared a state of emergency as a precautionary measure, his office said.