Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Denver International Airport (KDEN) closes indefinitely as blizzard slams region

Colorado's busy Denver International Airport said Wednesday afternoon that it "has made the decision to close the airport until further notice" as blizzard conditions raged outside the airport. 

"Weather and visibility are such that it is not safe for aircraft to arrive or depart at this time," Denver International Airport said via Twitter at 2:17 p.m. ET.

Airports frequently suspend flight operations during periods of bad weather, but the outright closure of an airport usually only happens during the most extreme of weather events. 

In a statement, Denver International said: "For those passengers currently at the airport, we are asking you to stay put until conditions improve and (the airport access road) is safe and passable."

Even before the closure had been announced, about 1,000 flights – more than half of the day’s schedule – had been already been canceled at Denver, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware. 

Adding to Denver's problems, sporadic power outages had been reported from heavy snow and winds bringing down power lines, according to the The Denver Post. One of the parts of the airport apparently affected by the outage? The airport's fuel facility. 

"I'm told that a number of systems are having power slowly restored or are still out," airport spokesman Heath Montgomery said to the Post. 

Fortunately for Denver fliers, power to the fueling facility apparently came back on shortly after 11 a.m. ET. 

"Power has been restored to our fuel facility, flights will begin resuming as able. Passengers should check their flight status," Denver International Airport said in a tweet sent at 11:19 a.m. ET. 

However, conditions apparently worsened, leading to the decision to close the airport. 

United operates a large connecting hub at Denver. It’s also the largest base for Denver-based Frontier. The airport is also one of the busiest for Southwest Airlines. 

United, Southwest and Frontier each had issued flexible rebooking polices for travel through Denver today. United's also included five other cities in Colorado. The polices varied by carrier, but they generally allow fliers to make one chance to their itinerary without paying a change fee or recalculated fare.  

Inside the airport, hundreds of people checked their smartphones, queued at airline ticket counters or wandered aimlessly, killing time before the airport made its closure announcement. 

March is the snowiest month in Denver, and many travelers seemed taken aback at the storm's ferocity, given the mild winter Denver had. It was 70° in the city on Tuesday. 

"What are the odds?" laughed Peter Aukstolis of Denver. He and his new wife, Laura Hargadine, got married Sunday and were supposed to be on a beach in Aruba by Wednesday evening. Instead, the two were cuddled up on the floor near a coffee shop as they checked and re-checked their flights. They're being rerouted through Philadelphia with a beach arrival expected sometime Thursday. 

"Will miss a day, but we're going for 10 days, and we are off for two weeks anyway," Aukstolis said. 

Annie Schupp waited on hold with United agents as she tried to sort out her flights.  

"The weather is literally worse here than Vancouver, and I'm trying to go on a ski trip," she said. 

Wintry weather was also creating disruptions for fliers at Minneapolis/St. Paul, though the cancellation totals were less severe there. More than 90 flights – or roughly 5% of the day’s schedule – had been grounded there as of 1:45 p.m. ET, according to FlightAware.

Minneapolis/St. Paul is a major hub for Delta. 

Passengers traveling through either Denver or Minneapolis on Wednesday should check ahead on the status of their flights. 

The storm was forecast to track east, possibly bringing heavy snow along a swatch of the upper Midwest. 

Original article can be found here:  http://www.11alive.com

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