DENVER (AP) - Airlines were investigating why windshields on at least 13 planes cracked at Denver International Airport as winds of up to 100 mph whipped through the foothills in Colorado.
Meanwhile, at least three people in Iowa died Friday night when a Cessna twin-engine airplane crashed during a snow storm in a field southeast of the Council Bluffs airport, officials said.
The names of the victims have not been released, and it's possible there is a fourth victim, said Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration in Chicago.
According to the National Weather Service, a fast-moving winter storm was pushing through the area when the plane went down, bringing wind gusts of up to 53 mph, snow and poor visibility.
Officials could not say what caused the crash and did not know if weather was a factor.
In Colorado, several major highways that were closed Friday due to blowing snow and whiteout conditions reopened, though some mountain sections remained closed Saturday - including U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass, where an avalanche buried two cars last month.
The storm system that brought nearly a foot of fresh powder to ski resorts, was expected to move out of the state Saturday.
SkyWest Airlines reported cracked windshields on eight planes that were taking off or landing Friday as winds gusted up to 50 mph, spokeswoman Marissa Snow said. One plane's windshield cracked while it was airborne.
"Only the outermost layer was affected," Snow said of the windshields, which are made from multiple layers of glass.
SkyWest, a regional carrier for United Airlines, said the planes involved were the Embraer EMB120 Brasilia and Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet, though she did not immediately have numbers.
Two Frontier Airlines Airbus planes had their windshields crack while airborne, while two other windshields cracked while at the gate, airline spokesman Joe Hodas said.
In all instances the planes returned to the airport and/or made it to the gate safely. No emergencies were declared and no injuries were reported.
Hodas said it was unclear whether the high winds were to blame.
"It's not exactly unusual weather for Denver," Hodas said. "We don't know what it is... It's kind of a mystery at this point."
Spokesman Steve Snyder said windshields cracked on several different makes and models of airplanes from several airlines, though he did not immediately know which and how many. None of the pilots reported flying debris, Snyder said.
"Everybody is fairly baffled by it," Snyder said.
At least 55 flights were canceled and others were diverted.
In southern Wyoming, parts of Interstate 80 were closed between Cheyenne and Laramie because of windblown snow driven by gusts over 50 mph and icy patches.
Before I-80 was closed, the driver and passenger of a tractor-trailer were killed in a crash at Laramie, the highway patrol said.
In Pennsylvania, the last of hundreds of motorists stranded on a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 78 were freed Friday, but several highways remained shut as crews struggled to clear ice and snow following a monster storm that has been blamed for at least 24 deaths in the Northeast and Midwest.
Gov. Ed Rendell apologized for the state's "totally unacceptable" handling of the storm and the Interstate 78 tie-up, which stranded hundreds of motorists for as long as 24 hours. He blamed an "almost total breakdown in communication" among state agencies.
State Transportation Secretary Allen D. Biehler said I-78 and large portions of I-81 and I-80 would remain closed so workers could clear them.
At least 24 deaths were blamed on the storm system and accompanying cold: six in Ohio; three in Nebraska; two each in Illinois, Indiana, New York, New Jersey and Delaware; and one each in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshire and Louisiana.
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