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Snowstorm blankets Midwest, delays flights

By Heather Hollingsworth

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:00 a.m. HST, Mar 23, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. » An early spring snowstorm delayed flights at Denver International Airport and closed several roads today as it moved eastward, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places.

The snow started falling around midnight in northeast Colorado and then moved into northwest Kansas and southwest Nebraska.

Ten to 15 inches of snowfall had fallen by late this morning north of Interstate 70 in northwest Kansas and northeast Colorado, with another 3 inches expected in the area, said Jerry Killingsworth, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. The interstate had been shut down today from Denver to Colby, Kan., because of poor visibility.

"It's a mess here," said Killingsworth, who is based in Goodland, Kan., which had received 14 inches. "Heavy, wet snow, tree limbs down."

As the system moved eastward, it threatened to inconvenience fans attending the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Kansas City.

Pamela Murray, an NWS meteorologist in Pleasant Hill, Mo., said Kansas City and western Missouri would see light showers and drizzle before the precipitation switched over to snow this afternoon. The heaviest snowfall was expected overnight, with overall accumulations in eastern Kansas and central Missouri mostly ranging from 5 to 9 inches.

Dan Gavitt, the vice president of the NCAA men's basketball championships, said teams and officials already are onsite and that no game delays are anticipated.

"This region routinely has winter snow and has the appropriate equipment and procedures to manage these winter conditions," Gavitt said in written statement. "We encourage fans planning to attend games to pay attention to the weather, use good judgment and follow any directions from local authorities regarding travel and weather."

Denver International Airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said today that some arriving flights have been delayed by more than two hours, but only about two dozen flights have been canceled.

Flights to Honolulu scheduled to leave around lunchtime were delayed. United Airlines Flight 328 was delayed an hour and 20 minutes while American Airlines Flight 5 was delayed nearly two-and-a-half hours.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said up to a foot of new snow in the mountains could create dangerous avalanche conditions.

The system will move into Illinois and Indiana overnight and into Sunday. Central Illinois could see a band of heavy snow with accumulations of 6 to 9 inches, while areas north of Peoria could get 4 to 6 inches. Forecasters expect a mixture of snow and rain south of I-70.

Farther south, tornadoes are possible in Louisiana and Mississippi as the storm system moves east, while strong winds and low humidity levels could lead to forest fires and wildfires in parts of New Mexico and west Texas.

Associated Press writers Jason Keyser in Chicago and Thomas Peipert in Denver contributed to this report.

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