DENVER (AP) – More than a foot of wet, heavy snow closed highways and canceled flights in parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Friday, snarling traffic and forcing school closures and flight cancellations.

Up to 3 feet of snow was expected by Saturday night in the mountains above 6,000 feet, forecasters said. Nearly 2 feet already had fallen in Rocky Mountain National Park about 60 miles northwest of Denver.

The chilly weather forced a return to heavy coats and snow boots for some who already had packed away their winter clothes.

The storm was welcomed at ski areas, where the economic downturn has reduced bookings more than 8 percent from last year at some resorts.

On Friday, the slopes were packed with late-season skiers and snowboarders taking their final runs of the season. Most resorts close Sunday.

“This is why we live here, to have the slopes to ourselves in April,” said Kristen Petitt, spokeswoman at Colorado’s most-visited resort, Breckenridge.

The storm was not without headaches, though. A 140-mile stretch of Interstate 80 and many smaller roads in Wyoming were closed. A 30-mile stretch of Interstate 25 from Wellington, Colo., to Cheyenne, Wyo., was closed briefly.

Authorities had no immediate reports of serious injuries, but a snow plow driver suffered minor injuries late Thursday when his truck rolled down a snowpacked embankment on Red Mountain in southwestern Colorado. A motorist freed him.

Parts of central and southern Wyoming were under a winter storm warning. Federal courts and city offices were closed in Cheyenne, where at least 14 inches were predicted. The Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne canceled an Earth Day celebration planned for Saturday.

Denver and Colorado Springs were expecting 10 to 20 inches of snow by Saturday night. Many suburban Denver schools closed early on Friday.

United Airlines, the dominant carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled 76 flights. The airport urged travelers to check with their airlines before leaving home. A spring storm last month stranded hundreds of passengers overnight.

Snow also delayed a bus convoy carrying 60 prisoners from Oklahoma to Wyoming.

The Wyoming Department of Corrections said the convoy had to stop a few miles into Wyoming on Thursday night because of traffic backups. The medium-security prisoners were waiting out the storm at a county jail in Laramie before continuing to a state prison in Rawlins, said department spokesman Carl Voigtsberger.

In Texas, thunderstorms moved through northern areas Friday. Thursday night, hail was so heavy in parts of west Texas that a stretch of Interstate 27 was shut down so snowplows could clear it away.

At least four tornadoes touched down in west Texas on Thursday. No injuries were reported.


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