Denver goes from sunny to white-out blizzard in matter of hours as airport, schools close

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DENVER -- A blizzard moved into the Denver metro area Wednesday morning with strong, heavy, wet snow that forced schools to close and snarled roads.

By noon, the Federal Aviation Administrations halted flights at Denver International Airport. Officials closed DIA after cancelling more than 1,000 flights as the powerful storm created white-out conditions.

Just hours earlier, it was a balmy 70 degrees with blue skies.

The storm is expected to clobber the Plains and Midwest. A blizzard warning is in effect until 6 p.m. for the Front Range east to the border with Kansas and Nebraska.

Several school districts in the metro area announced they would be closed ahead of the blizzard, including Denver Public Schools, Aurora Public Schools, Cherry Creek Schools and Adams County school districts.

The Colorado Department of Transportation said all passenger vehicles must have chains, snow tires or four-wheel drive on Denver-area interstates. All commercial vehicles must chain up as well.

Snow totals in Denver are expected to reach 10 to 14 inches by Wednesday night. Temperatures will start in the 30s but then drops into the 20s during the day. The mountains will have heavy snow as well, with as many as 16 inches expected.

Visibility will dropped to less than one mile during the day because of the heavy snow and wind gusts near 40 mph.

Xcel Energy reported 118,000 customers lost power, with most of that in the north metro area, particularly Boulder and Denver International Airport. An Xcel spokesman said 5,000 employees are working to restore the power. Crews from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico will be in the area Thursday to help restore power.

"It's all hands on deck," Mart Sturtz said.

Snow will wrap up by Wednesday night and be followed by clear skies. It will be sunny Thursday with temperatures into the upper 40s.

But a second classic spring snowstorm is setting up to move into the area Friday night into Saturday with another few inches of snow expected.