Small Planes Search for Stranded Motorists After Powerful Winter Storm Hits Colorado

A fleet of small planes canvassed snow-covered roads in Colorado on Sunday, searching for stranded travelers after a powerful winter storm piled drifts up to 10 feet (3 meters) high across much of the Plains.

National Guard troops have rescued 44 people from the storm, which buried the foothills west of Denver with more than 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow. More than 650 people spent Saturday night in shelters, officials said.

The storm that had once stretched nearly from Canada to Mexico was still dumping snow Sunday from Minnesota to Kansas.

"You can't see where certain state highways are. You can only tell because of the telephone poles," Colorado Gov. Bill Owens said Sunday in a phone interview from an airplane as he flew over the frosty landscape.

The Colorado wing of the Civil Air Patrol sent a dozen small planes over the area to look for stranded vehicles, trapped motorists or stranded livestock, spokesman Steve Hamilton said.

At least eight deaths were blamed on the storm. Six people have been killed since Thursday in traffic accidents in Colorado and Texas. A tornado spawned by the same weather system also killed a person Friday in Texas. In Kansas, a 48-year-old man was reported dead Sunday in a rural home where a generator apparently had been in use.

The National Guard was also mobilized in Kansas, where the storm left more than 44,000 homes and businesses without power and closed stretches of more than a dozen highways.

In New Mexico, authorities tried to clear a logjam of vehicles stranded along Interstate 40. The storm dumped up to 2 feet (60 centimeters) of snow on Albuquerque.

The snow and ice also left 15,000 Nebraska homes in the dark Sunday, and Omaha officials postponed a planned New Year's Eve fireworks display until Monday, citing potentially dangerous driving conditions.