TOPEKA, Kan. - A deadly storm that halted travel throughout the Great Plains weakened Tuesday as it headed east into Missouri and toward the Great Lakes, and officials reopened interstates in areas where motorists had been forced to adjust holiday plans mid-trip.
Authorities still were reporting snow drifts of up to 10 feet high in southeast Colorado, and Texas officials warned drivers to stay off the road in the Panhandle so crews would have a clear path to remove ice and snow. Major highways in the western half of the Oklahoma Panhandle remained closed.
Still, officials reopened Interstate 40 in the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico, and portions of Interstate 70 in western Kansas that had been closed. New Mexico reopened a closed section of Interstate 25, the main highway from Santa Fe to the Colorado line after crews cleared drifts as high as 5 feet. The storm dumped as much as 15 inches of snow as it hit parts of five states.
At least 40 people were stranded at the Longhorn Motel on Main Street in Boise City, Okla., where manager Pedro Segovia said blowing snow had created drifts 2- and 3-feet high and closed the main road.
"Some people cannot even get out of their houses. There is too much snow," Segovia said. "It's was blowing. We've got big piles. It's real bad."
Schools in Manhattan, Kan., canceled classes for the day, anticipating several inches of snow. Topeka was pelted by a cold rain, which was expected to turn to a wintry mix of light sleet and snow later in the day, though forecasters expected the storm to become less potent as it moved northeast toward the Great Lakes.
Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner said the patrol dealt with dozens of accidents in which motorists slid off highways Tuesday morning.
"We had ice-covered roads, covered by snow packed on top," he said.
The late-autumn snowstorm lumbered into the region Monday, turning roads to ice and reducing visibility to zero. Many of the areas hit Monday had enjoyed relatively balmy 60-degree temperatures just 24 hours earlier.
The storm was blamed for at least six deaths Monday, authorities said. Four people were killed when their vehicle collided with a pickup truck in part of eastern New Mexico where blizzard-like conditions are rare, and a prison guard and inmate died when a prison van crashed on an icy road in eastern Colorado.