Blizzard Brings Denver to a Halt

A major blizzard hit Denver Wednesday, bringing snow and freezing temperatures. Schools are closed, flights have been canceled and long stretches of highway are impassable. NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR News, it's DAY TO DAY. If you're looking for a white Christmas, go to the airport right now, get on a plane, go to Denver.

Except of course you can't get there, because Christmas is a little too white in Denver. Schools cancelled, malls closed, snow still falling. Yesterday a blizzard dumped two feet, the governor called out the National Guard to rescue stranded motorists. Five thousand travelers spent the night at the airport. Sorry, I shouldn't laugh at that. NPR's Jeff Brady is in Denver and he is stuck in his home just like everyone else in the Mile High City.

JEFF BRADY: Denver is one of those cities that prides itself on not getting ruffled by a little snow. But this is a lot of snow, and the city is pretty much resigned to the fact that nothing much is going to happen today.

(Soundbite of TV news broadcast)

Unidentified Woman (News Anchor): Have another cup of coffee, have some breakfast, because you're not going anywhere today. The roads are pretty bad out there.

Unidentified Man #1 (News Anchor): They are pretty bad out there...

BRADY: The T.V. anchors were joking this morning, and it was clear the blizzard was not a life and death thing. Lots of collision's on slick roads, but no fatalities according to police.

But the real test of this storm's seriousness was whether the morning news folks would pause for some commercials.

(Soundbite of ad)

GROUP: (Singing) Clap on, clap off...

Unidentified Man #2: Presenting the clapper.

BRADY: And - big sigh of relief - the goofy holiday ads were still there. At Denver International Airport, it was a bit more serious. Travelers who expected to be with their families now are going nowhere.

Thousands spent the night sleeping on the floor. United Airlines cancelled more than 600 flights. DIA officials hope to reopen by noon tomorrow.

Spokesman Scott Reed(ph) says there will still be a lot of logistics to take care of before the planes start taking off.

Mr. SCOTT REED (DIA Spokesman): You know, once we get the facility open, the airlines have to find a way to re-book these folks. And you know, I can't speak to how they're going to do it, but obviously they've got a challenge as well.

BRADY: In Denver neighborhoods, it seems that there are true theories on when to shovel snow. Wait until it stops snowing or keep on top of the snow so it doesn't pile up.

Koran Block(ph) is determined to try and keep up.

BRADY: How does your back feel?

Ms. KORAN BLOCK: Tired. Fortunately - or unfortunately - I live on a corner lot.

BRADY: I was going to say, you have twice as much to do.

Ms. GLOCK: Yes. But I can see the end here.

BRADY: Even as Glock cleared the snow, more was falling and collecting on her shoulders.

Down the street, Erica Garcia stood in the warm lobby of her apartment building looking at the snow outside.

Ms. GARCIA: So right now I'm grabbing my cross-country skis and going to my boyfriends house. So I don't get snowed in by myself.

BRADY: You don't usually cross-country in Denver, do we?

Ms. GARCIA: No, not traditionally - on days like this, yes.

BRADY: Garcia's landlord, Phillip Carbone(ph), says his family has owned this building for years. There have been lots of snow stories over that time.

Mr. PHILLIP CARBONE (Landlord): 1913, they had a snow storm here. The trolley car came around the - and they got stuck. We had to have - my grandparents had to have people sleep in the basement there.

BRADY: This storm won't surpass the 1913 big one. It dumped nearly four feet of snow on Denver.

This time most reports are estimating about two feet. But it looks like the storm is getting a name. People have started calling it the holiday blizzard of 2006. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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