U.S. Plains hit by deadly tornadoes and blizzards


DENVER, AP

A powerful storm battered the Plains with tornadoes, killing at least two people, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming were paralyzed by blowing snow that closed hundreds of miles (kilometers) of highways and the region’s biggest airport.

A tornado tore through a community food pantry in Iowa, killing one person, burying the body in rubble. A tornado also killed a man in Oklahoma.

Up to 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow fell along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains and winds gusted to 70 mph (112 kph), heaping the snow into deep drifts.

All Denver public schools were closed for the first time in more than six years.

Nearly 50,000 customers lost power in Colorado. “We’re treating this like a military operation,” Xcel Energy spokesman Steve Roalstad said.

Denver International Airport was shut down for seven hours to avoid the chaos that struck during a 1997 blizzard when thousands of passengers were stranded overnight, spokesman Chuck Cannon said.

The blowing snow closed hundreds of miles (kilometers) of Interstate 25 in Colorado, I-70 across eastern Colorado, and I-80 from Wyoming into the Nebraska Panhandle. Hundreds of people were stranded in cars near Colorado Springs, where the airport also was closed.

The snowstorm came on the back side of a weather system that also sent a line of severe thunderstorms across the eastern Plains, with tornadoes, hail and high wind causing damage from Texas to Nebraska.

A tornado that hit Plainville, Kansas, caused major damage to 25 homes, said Joy Moser, a spokeswoman for the state adjutant general’s office. No injuries were reported.