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Snow, rain may cause holiday travel delays

Snowfall in the Rockies and soaking rain in the South will mean likely delays for holiday travelers on the first official day of winter, forecasters said on Thursday.
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Snowfall in the Rockies and soaking rain in the South brought delays for holiday travelers on the first official day of winter, forecasters said on Thursday.

A snowstorm swept across Colorado overnight, dumping up to 10 inches of snow in the Denver metropolitan area and up to two feet of snow in the foothills west of the city, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm snarled rush-hour traffic in the Denver area, and roads from Wyoming to the New Mexico border remain snow-packed and icy, said Mindy Crane, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

"It's affected the whole urban corridor," Crane said.

Denver International Airport had received six inches of snowfall by Thursday morning, according to spokesperson Laura Coale. The storm resulted in 114 cancellations, but the majority of those, Coale said, were regional flights on small aircraft from rural areas. The airport anticipates that 1,888 flights will depart and arrive on Thursday.

The early winter snowfall is a boon to the state's ski resorts for the upcoming busy holiday season. The fresh snow and warmer temperatures forecast for the weekend will make for optimum skiing conditions, said Mistalynn Lee, spokeswoman for the Winter Park ski resort west of Denver.

"Christmas came early," she said.

Snow moving south
Heavy snow was again developing over New Mexico, with 12 to 18 inches of snow expected on Thursday afternoon and evening in the mountains, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Wiley.

Some three to five inches of snow are expected in the western part of the state, he said.

Wiley said travel could be hampered, though the winds were not likely to be as strong as the 35-40 mph winds that blew snow around earlier this week, shutting down highways in New Mexico and nearby states.

By Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, the snow is expected to move into north and northwest Texas, Wiley said. About two to four inches of snow could fall around west Texas, the Texas Panhandle and the El Paso area.

Heavy rain and thunderstorms in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee also could disrupt flights, said senior meteorologist Paul Walker.

Persistent rain was falling in Memphis early on Thursday and moving across the state.

"There will be a lot of rainfall today, with the areas south and east of us getting one to three inches," said Trevor Boucher, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Nashville.

Most of the more violent weather -- thunder and lightning storms -- will stay south of Tennessee, he said.

The showers will move into the Northeast, bringing heavy rains and thick fog overnight to New York, Washington and Philadelphia, Walker said.

"There's going to be some snow up into northern New England, north of Boston," Walker said.

Walker said gusty winds in the southern California mountains and passes on Thursday and Friday were forecast to reach 40-50 mph, though some spots could experience gusts as high as 60 mph.

The National Weather Service in San Diego issued a high wind warning, noting the winds would make driving difficult and advising motorists to watch for broken tree limbs and downed power lines.