DENVER International Airport

Mar 26, 2009

Denver International Airport

DENVER — A major spring snowstorm dumped at least a foot of snow across the Colorado-Wyoming state line on Thursday, canceling hundreds of flights, shutting down schools and making roads treacherous.

Wyoming authorities reported at least 33 people were injured in three pileups involving about 50 vehicles on Interstate 25 just south of the state line, leading Colorado officials to close the highway for more than 40 miles south of Cheyenne. The interstate is the main north-south thoroughfare in Colorado.

Aaron Fowler, chief of Laramie County Fire District 1 in Wyoming, said many other vehicles also slid off the road while trying to avoid the wrecks.

"Visibility when I arrived on the scene was, I would say, 100 yards _ very high winds and blizzard conditions," Fowler said.

Winds were gusting to nearly 40 mph in Denver, about 100 miles south of Cheyenne. The Regional Transportation District, the Denver-area mass-transit service, pulled its buses off the roads in Longmont, Colo., 30 miles north of Denver because of whiteout conditions.

"I saw three flipped cars," said Zachary Whitaker, who spent four hours driving his grandmother to the Denver airport from Gering, Neb. "Five more run off the road. Cars in ditches all over."

Denver and large swaths of the state's eastern half were under a blizzard warning Thursday while most of the state was under a winter storm warning. Gov. Bill Ritter declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard, though its mission was not immediately disclosed.

Forecasters predicted up to 2 feet of snow south and east of Denver by Friday and up to 15 inches in the city itself. More than a foot of snow was expected in the foothills west of Denver.

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