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Blizzard buries Denver, barrels east to Plains

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 10:08 PM EST, Sun February 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Denver gets over 8 inches of snow, but worst appears to be over
  • NEW: Flight delays at Denver's airport averaged over 4 hours on Sunday night
  • Parts of several Plains states could be hit hard by heavy snow, high winds Monday
  • Flash flood watches are in effect in parts of five Southeastern states

(CNN) -- Winter-weary residents in the Great Plains are bracing for yet another blow this week, compliments of a system that spent Sunday pounding those in and around Denver with high winds and heavy snow.

The Colorado capital had already gotten over 8 inches of snow by 5:30 p.m. MT (7:30 p.m. ET). The snow socked the city's main airport, where more than 200 of 1,500 flights had been canceled and other travelers faced average delays of more than 4 hours on Sunday night, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Even more snow had fallen in other places, including 19 inches in Jefferson, about 70 miles southwest of Denver.

By Sunday night, the worst was over for much of Colorado, though not for points east, which are expected to be hammered to start the workweek.

That includes several Plains states, which are already reeling from a dizzying few days of harsh winter weather.

Last Thursday, for instance, a storm dumped up to 22 inches of snow on parts of Kansas.

Two days later, Teresa Moore said her street in Kansas City, Kansas, still hadn't been plowed, making it impossible for her to take her husband to his doctor's appointments or visit her son at the hospital.

"If we have an emergency or a fire, the rescue can't come down here. So what are we to do," Moore told CNN affiliate KCTV. "... It just doesn't make any sense."

She got some relief when plow trucks finally hit the roads around her home later Saturday, but it won't last long. That city is expecting 9 to 15 inches of snow Monday night into Tuesday.

Millions in Midwest clean up after storm

Forecasters have upped their predictions for the amount of snow expected in northwest Oklahoma to 8 to 10 inches, with 15 inches in spots. This may be a shock to some, given that temperatures in places reached the mid-60s on Sunday.

"May see 4-6 foot drifts!" wrote National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Smith on Twitter. "Traveling is beyond discouraged!"

Such forecasts raised alarms throughout the Plains, leading to crowded stores as residents prepared for the storm.

Amanda Roberts, an entrepreneur and blogger in Warrensburg, Missouri, was one of them. Writing on Twitter, she said she made out well in her preparations.

"The snow has everyone stocking up on groceries," she said. "Fresh produce is basically gone but i got the last gallon of chocolate milk. I call it a win."

Record-setting February

Kansas City International Airport set a February 21 record of 9 inches of snow, 4 more inches than the amount that fell the same date in 2010. Monday might bring 6 to 10 more inches, forecasters said.

Kansas City is approaching its February snowfall record of 20.7 inches, set in 1960.

The state of Kansas is also still digging out in many places.

Wichita saw its second-highest storm snowfall total on record last week with 14.2 inches over two days, the National Weather Service said.

The town of Russell in the state's middle lay under a 22-inch layer of white by the time the storm roared by.

Silver lining

The snowstorm turned out to be a welcome one to many Kansans and many others throughout the Great Plains, who have been suffering a drought for a third straight year. Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and a host of other farm-heavy states have seen crop losses as a result.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture expects those conditions to continue into April, but near-record levels of snowfall will ease the problem and could help the drought end faster.

"It snows so infrequently here. Now we've been in a really bad drought for several years; really, really hot summers and just no moisture. So we're thrilled to see snow or ice -- whatever moisture we can get," Wichita resident Kristen Woodburn said.

Ranchers embraced the storm, even though bitter cold snow can be deadly during calving season.

Frank Harper, a Kansas rancher from Sedgwick and the immediate past president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said the storm caused more work for him because he had to bring his calves inside to warm them up.

But he called the snowstorm a blessing for bringing good moisture to the winter wheat.

Rain, flooding the issue in Southeast

While millions will see snow -- including Chicago, where 3 to 5 inches of snow and sleet are expected Tuesday -- rain may rule for the next few days in parts of the Southeast.

Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf Coast, had overcast skies and a temperature of 68 degrees at 5 p.m. CT Sunday. But within a few hours and through Monday night, residents there can expect heavy rains and wind gusts as strong as 30 mph.

The rain is part of a band affecting five Southeastern states where flash flood watches are in effect from Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning.

Some areas from Louisiana to South Carolina could see up to 4 inches of rain.

CNN's Judson Jones and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

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