DENVER (AP) — A weather system that blew in from California left air travelers stranded on Monday and dumped steady snow on the Denver area in what is expected to be the first big snowstorm of the season.
Snow also was falling in parts of Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona, and it’s expected to spread into Iowa after voters have gathered for the state’s presidential caucuses.
About a third of the flights at Denver airport were canceled before the snow picked up around midday. Up to about a foot of powder could fall along Colorado’s heavily populated Front Range region by the time the storm moves out Tuesday and across the Plains.
The evening commute went smoothly for most drivers in the Denver area, and many roads were open around Colorado. Plows were expected to be deployed Monday night as temperatures drop and accumulations increase.
Between 3 to 4 feet of snow is possible in the state’s southwestern mountains, which typically get slammed by storms moving out of the Pacific.
Possible blizzard conditions could complicate candidates’ plans to leave Iowa on Tuesday, when snow was also likely in Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The forecast prompted Nebraska state lawmakers to cancel hearings and debates, and some schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin announced closures Tuesday.
Colorado’s mountains have gotten plenty of snow so far this winter. Some experts believe that is the result of an El Nino weather pattern, a natural warming in the Pacific Ocean that interacts with the atmosphere.
Jason Nonemaker was in Aspen for a work trip and said the heavy snow has delayed his travel plans for three days.
“This is the most snow I’ve ever seen here in Aspen,” he said. “This has been unbelievable.”
Denver and other communities just east of the mountains haven’t gotten as much. But the storm will pack winds that are forecast to shift and blow up against the east side of the mountains, producing much more snow in populated areas.
“This is our first bigger storm,” said Kari Bowen, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Boulder.
The same system also brought about a foot of record-breaking snow to Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts, along with rain and cool weather to other parts of Nevada. It caused a pileup on Interstate 80 on Sunday near the Nevada-California line.
In Utah, about a foot of snow has fallen in the southern part of the state and on the ski resorts in the mountains east of Salt Lake City.
In California, strong winds toppled power poles and trees, including one that killed a driver in San Diego County, and ripped off rooftops and even some solar panels.