People wait to board the bus as an afternoon snowfall overtakes downtown Denver on March 4, 2013,
People wait to board the bus as an afternoon snowfall overtakes downtown Denver on March 4, 2013, (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Denver International Airport said that 216 flights have been canceled through Saturday because of the blizzard warning issued for several Front Range and eastern plains counties, which predicts strong gusty winds and heavy accumulations of snow.

Announcements of cancellations and closures across the metro area also started Friday night before the snow.

Airports are expected to be in full de-icing mode when the storm arrives, so passengers may sit on the plane a little longer before take-off. DIA has about 500 trained snow-removal workers, and about 250 pieces of snow-removal equipment.

Travelers are urged to check for updated forecasts as the storm evolves, and DIA is advising travelers flying this weekend to check their flight's status with their airline or at flydenver.com.

Snow is expected to pile up at the rate of 1 to 2 inches an hour between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, said Byron Lewis, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder.

"It is a pretty strong storm," Lewis said. "If people don't have to venture outside tomorrow, they shouldn't."

In Denver, libraries will be closed on Saturday, and recreation centers will be on shortened schedule, opening at 10 a.m. and closing by 4 p.m.

Commerce City has cancelled their "EduExpo" educational fair previously scheduled for Saturday.

Weekend activities at all St. Vrain Valley Schools are also cancelled, including SAT testing at Longmont High.


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CDOT crews are already working a snow shift on the Interstate 70 corridor and the foothills, with about 30 plows on the I-70 corridor between C-470 and Vail Pass.

"There will be ski traffic, for sure," CDOT spokeswoman Mindy Crane said.

High winds and poor visibility are expected Saturday, so motorists are urged to call 511 or visit cotrip.org for the latest information on possible road closures.

Along the Front Range and across the eastern plains, the snow shift will start about 5 a.m. Saturday, with snow starting in areas of the eastern plains at 8 a.m.

Northern and northeast Colorado will have about 100 plows working during the storm. Southern and southeast Colorado, including Castle Rock and Monument, will have about 160 plows.

In Denver, rain is expected to change to snow about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, and road temperatures are expected to stay above freezing for most of the storm, so CDOT will start a partial snow shift about midnight Friday, with a full snow shift starting about 5 a.m.

The following counties are under the blizzard warning: Segdwick, Phillips, Logan, eastern Weld, Morgan, Washington, eastern Adams and Arapahoe, Elbert, northern Lincoln, eastern Douglas and northern El Paso.

Anywhere from 8 to 16 inches of snow is expected along the Front Range and Eastern Plains and up to 2 feet of snow is expected in the mountains, he said.

The snow is expected to start falling late Friday, Lewis said.

Nezette Rydell, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder, said the storm will help the drought-stricken state.

"It's not going to get us out of the drought," she said. "It will take a number of these storms to get out of the drought, but every one will help."

She said the storm is moving fast enough that it will not radically change temperatures in the long run.

By Sunday temperatures in the metro area are expected to rise to the low 40s, and by Wednesday temperatures will be in the 60s.

"The melt-off will start by Sunday," Rydell said. "It's going to be lovely."

Kirk Mitchell: 303-954-1206 or twitter.com/kmitchelldp