DENVER (CBS4) — Denver International Airport officials say safety is their top priority and they are working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to monitor this weekend’s upcoming big snowstorm in Colorado and determine whether the airfield can remain open. In fact, the airport has planted an expert in the FAA tower to have direct communication with air traffic controllers.

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“We call that position the ‘snowman’ and that person keeps communication between the airport and FAA open. Our goal is that we are being as safe as possible,” said Emily Williams with DIA.

“If visibility is bad if winds are strong if for some reason snow is falling so fast we can’t keep a runway clear, those are conditions in which the FAA would close runways and keep planes from taking off and landing,” Williams said.

Williams tells CBS4’s Britt Moreno that the airport learned several lessons after big snows of the past like the blizzard of 2006-2007. That’s when airport officials developed a new snow plan. Now the airport has multi functioning equipment that will blow and push snow where crews use big melting machines. Crews have installed a drain in the airfield. Backhoes load the snow into the melter and the water then goes down the drain. This allows crews to save time and keep runways clear at a quicker pace.

DIA has 200 pieces of snow equipment that can help clear a runway in 15 minutes. DIA has six runways which is more than most airports in the nation and crews sometimes will focus operations on a couple of runways to keep things moving.

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Even so, airport officials acknowledge rearranging flights might not be such a bad idea.

Officials said said cancellations could begin Thursday afternoon.

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Southwest and Frontier are some of the carriers that have already issued travel alerts ahead of the incoming snowstorm. They are waiving change fees and only charging the difference in flight price. United has added more flights on Friday, so people can make it in and out of town before the snow arrives.

Additional Resources

The website FlightAware.com constantly tracks delays and flight cancellations at Denver International Airport, which goes by the airport code DEN and is known to locals in Colorado as DIA. Get current information about DEN flights at flightaware.com.

Visit DIA’s website at flydenver.com.