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Denver flights grounded again as 2d snowstorm hits

DENVER -- Denver's second big snowstorm of the holidays grounded scores of flights yesterday during one of the busiest travel periods of the year and blanketed streets that never got plowed the last time.

At Denver International, the nation's fifth-busiest airport, the major airlines canceled 15 percent to 20 percent of their flights yesterday -- nearly 200 departures -- to ease congestion.

But officials were optimistic they would avoid a rerun of the pre-Christmas blizzard that unloaded 2 feet of snow and shut down the vaunted "all-weather" airport for two days, stranding 4,700 passengers and snarling holiday travel around the country.

The latest storm hit the state Thursday morning, and the snow was expected to be spread out over two or three days, making it easier for plows to keep up. A foot or more of snow was forecast in Denver through today.

"That's something we can handle," Frontier Airlines spokesman Joe Hodas said.

A weather slowdown at Denver has relatively little nationwide ripple effect on airlines other than United and Frontier, which account for 80 percent of Denver's traffic, said David Castelveter of the Air Transport Association, an industry group.

The New Year's Day weekend was extended by a day yesterday as government offices and businesses closed in Denver and other Colorado cities.

A 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70, the main east-west highway through the state, was closed from Denver to Colby, Kan. Greyhound canceled all bus trips out of Denver.

Governor Bill Owens of Colorado again declared a state of emergency, putting the National Guard on standby.

In New Mexico, Interstate 40 was closed from Albuquerque to Santa Rosa, and numerous crashes were reported after a storm swept through.

More than an inch of snow per hour fell yesterday morning in Kansas. Forecasters predicted 15 to 20 inches in some areas.

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