Northern Colorado Digs Out From Snow

Much of the heavy snowfall piled up by a weekend blizzard had melted Tuesday, providing at least a little help for drought-stricken areas, and airports and highways were returning to normal after storm-caused shutdowns stranded hundreds of travelers.

The weekend storm, which dropped as much as 2 feet of wet snow, was "a good shot in the arm" for northern Colorado, where mountain snowfall has lagged below average, said Mark Svoboda (search), a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center (search).

Melting snow provides up to 80 percent of Colorado's water. Statewide, the snowpack is 107 percent of average, but river basins in northern Colorado are all below average.

It's too early to say whether the storm will have a lasting impact on Colorado's five-year drought, Svoboda said.

However, the storm should help by saturating the ground and allowing additional rain and snow to soak into streams, lakes and aquifers, he said.

"Anything we can do to keep snow on the ground, or some rain, now between the middle of May will be some much welcome news," Svoboda said.

Flight schedules were nearly back to normal at Denver International Airport (search), where the storm stranded more 2,000 travelers Sunday night and created hours-long waits on Monday.

"The lines are not nearly as long as they were yesterday," airport spokesman Chuck Cannon said.

Hundreds of other travelers had to spend Sunday night in motels or emergency shelters as the heavy snowfall and brisk wind create whiteout conditions.

A handful of wrecks were reported on state highways, but no fatalities.