Fast-moving system dumps snow on Rockies

DENVER (AP) — A strong storm system dumping snow on Denver was racing east Wednesday morning, menacing eastern Colorado, western Nebraska and Kansas with blizzards, while threatening parts of Iowa and Missouri with tornadoes.

Denver International Airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said airlines have canceled about 50 flights in anticipation of the bad weather — just a small portion of the airport's 1,500 daily flights. He said ground crews have been able to keep up with the snow.

National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Dankers said up to 12 inches have been reported in the Rockies. About 3 inches fell on Denver, he said, but snow was expected to continue for at least a couple more hours after sunrise.

Forecaster Jared Guyer with the weather service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, said the back side of the system will run into more cold air over Kansas and Nebraska, leaving behind up to 8 inches in some spots.

A winter storm warning or blizzard warning was in effect for parts of Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas from early Wednesday through the afternoon and evening in some places. Sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph were expected, with gust up to 55 or even 60 mph.

The weather service cited the potential for white-out conditions and urged people to stay home.

A day earlier, up to 18 inches of wet, heavy snow fell in Nevada, shuttering schools in Reno and knocking out power to thousands.

At Pi Kappa Cino Coffee in Sterling, Colorado, workers on Tuesday were checking their heaters and stocking up on coffee to handle the first significant snowfall of the season.

"We always try to keep prepared for the winter, keeping extra water on hand and checking the heaters," owner Patricia Prescott said. "Business normally picks up because everyone wants our warm drinks."

Forecaster Guyer said as the massive system spreads east, its southern portion will run into warmer, humid air, raising the potential for severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes.

"It's definitely a chance of severe weather, a severe weather risk no doubt worth paying attention to," he said.

"November has a history of producing some significant weather events. We will have to keep an eye on things," said Greg Carbin, warning coordination meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center.

The Storm Prediction Center's midday forecast Tuesday cautioned 54 million people to be alert for severe weather Wednesday.