- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 31, 2006

DENVER (AP) — National Guard troops in tracked vehicles crawled through 10-foot snowdrifts in whiteout conditions yesterday in eastern Colorado, rescuing motorists trapped by the region’s second holiday season blizzard.

The storm, which brought Denver to a standstill and hampered holiday air travel Thursday and Friday, was slowly moving east, spreading snow from New Mexico to the Dakotas and generating strong thunderstorms in the lower Mississippi Valley. Blizzard warnings were posted for eastern Colorado and western Kansas and into parts of New Mexico, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle.

The National Guard pulled about 20 persons out of cars stranded on rural highways Friday night and yesterday, taking them to emergency shelters, said Maj. Gen. Mason Whitney, the state adjutant general.

“They’re telling me it’s zero visibility,” Gen. Whitney said. “They’ll kind of bump into something and it’ll turn out to be a car with people in it.”

Interstate 70 and several other major east-west highways were closed yesterday from the Rockies east across Colorado into western Kansas. Interstate 25 heading south into New Mexico was closed near the state line.

All major roads from Kansas into Colorado were closed yesterday, including Interstate 70. A Kansas Highway Patrol dispatcher said the roads would remain closed until Colorado officials decide to reopen their routes.

One traffic death was blamed on the storm in Colorado and a tornado killed one person in Texas on Friday.

A possible tornado struck a rural part of south Louisiana early yesterday, damaging homes and ripping down power lines, but there were no reports of injuries, Acadia Parish Sheriff Wayne Melancon said.

About 500 travelers spent the night at Denver International Airport, not stranded but hoping to get an early start on ticket lines, airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said.

The nation’s fifth-busiest airport was closed for two days by a storm that struck just before Christmas, but it was only slowed by the latest storm, with the major carriers canceling about 20 percent of their scheduled flights.

Airlines planned to fly full or nearly full schedules yesterday, Mr. Cannon said.

Up to 18 inches of snow had fallen by yesterday in western Kansas, but the snow had started turning to rain in many areas. Up to a foot fell in southwestern and central Nebraska.

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