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The view of Colorado Springs from Pikes Peak early Wednesday. Photo courtesy of City of Colorado Springs.

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The Colorado Department of Transportation is prepping its crews and warning motorists to stay off the roads Wednesday evening as another wave of wintry weather impacts northern and eastern Colorado.

To avoid a repeat of stranded motorists and abandoned cars, as occurred during a March blizzard, drivers are urged to heed the warning.

Although the high temperature in Colorado Springs Wednesday is expected to reach 59, conditions will quickly change. Wintry weather is expected to arrive about 4 p.m. and 2 to 6 inches of snow is expected in north El Paso County. The overnight low will drop nearly 40 degrees.

Interstate 25 over Monument Hill has the potential to be closed, along with the Interstate 70 mountain corridor and Interstate 76, CDOT said in a news release Wednesday. Crews will not be pre-treating the roads because before precipitation freezes, rain could wash away the brine, the news release said. 

CDOT will deploy 100 plows throughout the Denver metro area, which is expected to be hit the hardest Wednesday afternoon. Crews already are pre-staged on Monument Hill to speed up potential closures and reduce the number of stranded drivers as compared with last month's bomb cyclone, said CDOT Director of Highway Maintenance Kyle Lester.

"We did a lot of things right in the last storm," said Lester. "The major thing I would say as a takeaway is that I want to close I-25 in a more proactive manner. That will upset most of the traveling public, but it's safer."

Though the storm is not expected to be as strong, CDOT is preparing for a torrent just as strong.

"We're no expecting a storm with the same conditions," said Shoshana Lew, executive director of CDOT. "It shouldn't be the same accumulations or weather conditions, but we are certainly ready to respond with the same magnitude."

The Colorado National Guard was also activated about 1:30 p.m. to help rescue stranded motorists. About 50 soldiers and 24 vehicles from the National Guard are prepositioning search and rescue teams at readiness centers between Longmont and Colorado Springs.

The incoming weather has already had an impact on Denver. According to flight tracking site FlightAware, as of 8:15 a.m., there have been over 700 cancelled flights at Denver International Airport.

Airlines serving DIA, including United, are offering travel waivers for those scheduled to fly Wednesday and Thursday. Frontier Airlines announced that travelers who purchased tickets before Tuesday can request a refund or make one itinerary change at no extra charge if their flight is canceled.

A blizzard warning has been issued by the National Weather Service in Pueblo for northern El Paso County and Monument Ridge from noon Wednesday until noon Thursday. A high wind warning is also in effect at noon for southeast areas including El Paso, Pueblo and Bent counties where gusts could reach 65 mph.

"The evening commute will be very difficult, if not impossible. Road closures will be likely," the blizzard warning said.

Rain and snow showers will increase early Wednesday with widespread rain expected by noon across the Front Range, the blizzard warning said. Slush will freeze under low temperatures, causing travel to be very difficult. As snow begins to fall, wind gusts are expected to be 45-65 mph, creating blizzard conditions and low visibility to drivers.

Snow is expected in Colorado Springs through late Saturday, the service's forecast shows. Winds will continue to blow strong during and after the storm, then die down Thursday night.

Colorado Springs went on accident alert at 12:45 p.m.

Click here for traffic updates.

Click here for flight status at Colorado Springs Airport and here for Denver International Airport.

636-4809

@leslie_m_james

Liz Forster is a general assignment reporter with a focus on environment and public safety. She is a Colorado College graduate, avid hiker and skier, and sweet potato enthusiast. Liz joined The Gazette in June 2017.

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