Colorado Flights Canceled As Storm Nears - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/29/06-Denver

Colorado Flights Canceled As Storm Nears

New Year's travelers jammed the Denver airport Thursday, trying to get out of town ahead of a snowstorm that threatened to close runways and gum up the nation's busy holiday travel season for the second time in a week.

The storm was expected to dump up to 16 inches of snow on the Denver area overnight, a week after a pre-Christmas blizzard shut the airport for more than two days. The shutdown stranded 4,700 holiday travelers and backed up flights around the country.

Managers at the nation's fifth-busiest airport drew up snowplowing plans, and airlines urged ticket-holders to flee Denver early or delay departures until after the storm. By 3 p.m. ET, United Airlines and Frontier, the two biggest carriers at Denver International Airport, had canceled more than 180 flights.

Mill and Ann Younkers arrived hours early to check in for an evening Frontier flight back home to Naples, Florida. The couple's trip to see their daughter in Denver was delayed three days by the first storm, and they did not arrive until Christmas morning.

Mill Younkers said he was holding a backup reservation for Sunday and was ready to reclaim his rental car if needed.

"You just have to have a good sense of humor and keep your patience," he said. "Try to always have a Plan B."

The airport and airlines called in extra workers, and security lines moved relatively quickly. But long lines formed at ticket counters as travelers tried to adjust their plans. The Frontier line snaked across the cavernous terminal and wrapped around behind the lines of other airlines on the other side of the building.

Frontier waived its usual change fee to encourage passengers to catch earlier flights. "Let's try and get as many people out ahead of the storm as we can," Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas said.

After running out of bedding for stranded passengers during the first storm, airport managers lined up cots and blankets and urged food vendors to ensure they had plenty of supplies on hand.

The National Weather Service said the storm could buffet the area with wind gusts up to 45 mph, whipping heavy snow into blinding whiteouts. Denver could get 18 inches of snow by Friday morning, and up to 2½ feet was forecast for the Rocky Mountain foothills.

In California, another powerful winter storm left tens of thousands of people without power on Thursday as winds gusted to near-hurricane force and blowing snow closed a stretch of Interstate 5 in the mountains north of Los Angeles.

Forecasters in California warned of dangerous winds, with gusts over 70 mph, through Friday morning in the region's valleys and mountain passes.

Last week's blizzard virtually shut down life along the Front Range, the 170-mile corridor along the foot of the Rockies that's home to 3.8 million people in Denver, Colorado Springs and other cities. Highways, schools and businesses closed, and even the mail couldn't get through.

Many Colorado cities were still trying to recover on Thursday, chipping away at the thick ice and packed snow that layered some streets as the new storm approached.

"Believe it or not, the first storm is not over for us," said Saleem Khattak, streets manager for Colorado Springs' Public Works Department.

Twenty of the state Transportation Department's 900 plows broke down during last week's storm. Ten have been repaired, but the others might not be ready, department spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said.

Denver and airport officials have been fending off criticism of their snow-removal efforts almost since the storm hit.

On Wednesday, Mayor John Hickenlooper said the city had hired a consultant with experience helping other large airports, including Chicago's O'Hare. He and airport aviation manager Turner West said the airport could end up buying more equipment and hiring more workers.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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