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Snowstorm causes accidents, outages in Colorado, Nebraska

This news story was published on February 4, 2012.
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By Ricardo Lopez, Los Angeles Times –

A blizzard that had pummeled northeastern Colorado on Friday moved across Nebraska and into southwestern Iowa on Saturday, causing dozens of accidents on highways as visibility was reduced to near-zero in some places.

The storm, the first major snowfall this winter for Colorado and the Midwest, dropped about 20 inches of snow in some parts of Nebraska, said Matt Masek, a National Weather Service meteorologist in North Platte, Neb.

By Saturday afternoon, the storm, with wind gusts up to 30 mph, had moved into southwestern Iowa, where snow totals ranged from 4 to 11 inches, said Roger Vachalek, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Des Moines, Iowa.

The slow-moving storm had weakened by late Saturday, and winter weather advisories were expected to be canceled in many areas, Vachalek said.

The storm caused more than 600 flight cancellations Friday at Denver International Airport. It also led to dozens of auto accidents across the region, none major, authorities said.

Among those grateful for the snow were farmers and ranchers in eastern Colorado, which has been plagued by a drought, and ski resorts.

With the snow, however, came an increased risk of avalanches east of the Continental Divide. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the new snow could “overwhelm the existing snowpack.”

Because the snow was of the heavy, wet variety, it brought down tree limbs and power lines across Nebraska and hampered utility workers’ efforts to make repairs.

More than 15,000 people were without power at one point Saturday, but that number had been reduced to 6,000 by early evening, the Associated Press reported.

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