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Heavy snow, extreme cold will affect Colorado over next three days; travel likely to be hazardous

Posted at 7:05 PM, Jan 03, 2017

DENVER – Colorado is likely to see its strongest snow storm so far this winter from Tuesday night through Friday morning. The mountains could see 1 to 3 feet of snow, while Denver could get anywhere between 6 and 12 inches of snow.

HEAVY SNOW IN MOUNTAINS, DENVER AREA

Denver itself is forecast to receive between 6 and 12 inches, but much of the Rockies will get between 1 and 2 feet, with some higher peaks getting 3 feet of snow.

READ: How much snow will we get?

The snow started Tuesday night in the mountains, which got anywhere between a dusting and several inches of snow overnight. 

Avalanche conditions are expected to become "very dangerous" by Wednesday night and into Thursday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

"New and wind-drifted snow could break up to 3 feet thick and be large enough to bury or kill you," the information center said in a news release. It says "catastrophic" avalanches large enough to break trees or destroy cars are possible.

The avalanche information center advises anyone who has to go into avalanche terrain to be careful and to carefully evaluate the snowpack.

Wednesday afternoon, the snow is expected to pick up throughout the state. Dry, fluffy snow is expected to blanket much of Colorado.

Denver announced Wednesday it would be deploying both its large plows and smaller residential plows for the storm in order to target both larger streets and residential streets. The city says this is a change to its residential plow policy, and that the new rules will allow smaller plows to be considered when 6 inches of snow are forecast.

In the past, 12+ inches had to be forecast in order for the city to deploy its residential plows.

EXTREME COLD AND TRAVEL DELAYS EXPECTED

The storm will also bring Arctic temperatures back into Colorado. In Denver and across the eastern plains, expect highs only in the upper teens to near 20 degrees on Wednesday and 5 to 10 above zero on Thursday.  Nighttime lows will drop to zero to five below Wednesday through Friday. 

Heavy travel delays on the mountain roads, including I-70 and I-76, are expected Wednesday and Thursday. Loveland Pass was shut down again Wednesday morning because of snow and wind.

In Denver, drivers and commuters should expect slow travel Thursday morning during rush hour.

CDOT is already warning drivers that hazardous conditions will be in place for the latter half of the week, and is reminding drivers of the traction in chain laws in place in Colorado.

Anyone driving without proper tires or chains faces a $130 fine, which could rise to more than $500 if a driver crashes and blocks the road.

For tips on getting your vehicle ready to drive in such heavy snow, click here.

The Arctic temperatures will also create hazards for anyone having to be outside for very long over the next couple of days. With some below-zero temperatures forecast, people should use these tips to protect themselves from the cold – both outside and inside homes.

FLIGHTS ALREADY CANCELED AT DIA

Anyone looking to fly in or out of Denver Wednesday, Thursday and Friday should also be aware that delays and cancelations will be likely.

On Tuesday, Frontier Airlines canceled 23 flights Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the storm, but is offering refunds and flight changes.

As of 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, there were 300 flights delayed into or out of Denver and 107 cancelations Wednesday, according to FlightAware, which tracks live delays and cancelations.

The airport says many of the flights cancelled Wednesday are smaller commuter airlines and that passengers should check their flight status with their airline for updates.

It says it has 250 pieces of snow removal equipment and 500 snow-removal workers on-hand.

Several schools have already closed for Thursday, and the University of Colorado said Wednesday afternoon it was closing at 4 p.m. Wednesday despite class not being in session. It said a decision for Thursday's status will be made Wednesday night at 10 p.m.

For the latest local updates on weather, forecasts, and weather alerts, click here for the Denver7 weather page. For school and business closings, click here.

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