DENVER – Plows patrolled Denver's streets Thursday as another major storm blew toward the city, where 2 feet of snow still lingered from the blizzard that paralyzed the region a week earlier.
If the wind remains as strong as forecast, it could easily whip the snow into blinding whiteouts by Friday, the National Weather Service warned.
That could shut down area highways all over again and possibly delay flights at Denver International Airport, where thousands of holiday travelers were stranded for about two days during the last storm.
Eighteen inches of snow was forecast for the Denver area starting Thursday, with as much as 2 1/2 feet of snow in the foothills and several inches as the storm moves in the plains.
Many Colorado cities were still trying to recover from last week's storm, chipping away at the thick ice and packed snow that layered some streets while repairing broken plows and stockpiling materials for the next wave.
"Believe it or not, the first storm is not over for us," said Saleem Khattak, streets manager for Colorado Springs' Public Works Department.
Twenty of the state Transportation Department's 900 plows broke down during last week's storm. Ten have been repaired but the others might not be ready, department spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said.
Last week's storm virtually shut down life along the Front Range, the 170-mile corridor along the foot of the Rockies that's home to 3.8 million people in Denver, Colorado Springs and other cities. It dropped up to 3 1/2 feet of snow in the mountains and 2 feet on the Front Range.
Denver's airport was closed to all flights for 45 hours, leaving about 4,700 people to try to sleep in the airport on the first night. Highways, schools and businesses closed, and even the mail couldn't get through.
Denver and airport officials have been fending off criticism of their snow-removal efforts almost since the storm hit.
On Wednesday, Mayor John Hickenlooper said the city had hired a consultant with experience helping other large airports, including Chicago's O'Hare. He and airport aviation manager Turner West said the airport could end up buying more equipment and hiring more workers.
In California, a powerful storm left tens of thousands without power Thursday as winds gusted to near-hurricane force and blowing snow closed a stretch of Interstate 5 in the mountains north of Los Angeles.
"It was whiteout conditions. You just couldn't see anything. To complicate things, there was ice and snow on the roads," California Highway Patrol Officer Terry Liu said.
The weather service warned that the dangerous winds, with gusts over 70 mph, would likely persist through Friday morning in the region's valleys and mountain passes.