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Weekly wrap-up: Colorado National Guard rescues stranded motorists on snowy I-25; Wildfire ravages Kansas, Oklahoma

While the official start to spring arrived this week, winter kept a firm grip on much of the United States.

A major winter storm tracking from the Intermountain West to the Great Lakes caused widespread travel concerns from Tuesday into Thursday.

Blizzard conditions shut down travel around the Denver metro area on Wednesday and left over 100,000 people without power. Denver International Airport was shut down for several hours, and over 1,300 flights were canceled. It was the first time in 10 years that the airport was forced to close. A storm total of just over 13 inches of snow was measured at the airport.

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Much of eastern Colorado received 12-18 inches of snow although there were some locally higher reports. One location near Boulder measured over 25 inches, while over 31 inches fell near Pinecliffe, which is located about an hour to the northwest of Denver.

Colorado's National Guard was called in to assist with stranded motorists on Interstate 25. According to the Denver Post, a "very large number of patients" were being treated at The University of Colorado Hospital as a result of accidents on the highways.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency ahead of the wintry weather. In Minnesota, 171 crashes with 27 injuries were reported from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time, according to the Minnesota State Police.

High winds, plenty of warmth and extremely low humidity set the stage for extreme fire conditions across the central U.S., ahead of the wintry weather. A major wildfire burned across parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Thousands of acres were charred in south-central Kansas, which lead Gov. Sam Brownback to declare a state of disaster emergency.

Hundreds of firefighters and emergency vehicles were deployed to combat the Anderson Creek fire.

The fire, which began on Tuesday, March 22, near Medicine Lodge, Kansas, forced residential evacuations in Barber and Comanche counties, according to the Kansas Adjutant General's Department. However, some residents were allowed to return to their homes by Thursday.

About 800-1,000 structures were spared near Medicine Lodge, but one home was destroyed on the outskirts of town.

The first lightning fatality of 2016 was reported last weekend in Larose, Louisiana. According to, a New Orleans woman was found unresponsive after taking shelter from a thunderstorm in a tent at the T-Bois Blues Festival on Friday night, March 18. She was later pronounced dead on Saturday. Two others were injured.

While Anchorage, Alaska, has experienced below-normal snowfall this winter, the city received over 6 inches of snow on Saturday, March 19. However, the snow was blamed for traffic chaos on the highways, as dozens of crashes were reported, according to the Alaska Dispatch News. One of the accidents involved 20 vehicles and nine of the crashes caused injuries.

Several AccuWeather meteorologists and staff writers contributed content to this article.

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