High winds, heavy snow slam Plains and Upper Midwest; storm heads east

Heavy snow and powerful winds impacting holiday travel

Last Updated Dec 27, 2018 8:48 PM EST

High winds and heavy snow slammed parts of Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota on Thursday as a winter storm hit the Plains and Upper Midwest. Some areas were buried under a foot or more of snow, reports Jennifer Mayerle of CBS Minnesota. Blizzard conditions sent cars skidding off roads and caused several highway closures and hundreds of accidents, including one fatal crash in western Kansas. 

Authorities in Kansas warned drivers to stay off the roads. The Kansas Highway Patrol responded to 15 accidents over a 12-hour span, although only two of them resulted in injuries, Lt. Stephen Larow said. One victim of a wreck in Logan County was flown to a hospital for treatment. The numbers don't include accidents responded to by police and sheriff's departments. 

The Kansas Department of Transportation reopened Interstate 70 on Thursday after closing it earlier in the day from Goodland to Wakeeney, citing poor visibility. Several other highways were either closed or snow covered in the western part of the state.

In anticipation of the storm, Gov. Jeff Colyer on Wednesday declared a state of disaster that authorizes the use of state resources and workers to help affected areas.

Kansas Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director Angee Morgan urged Kansans to change or delay travel plans in affected areas until after the storm. She said those who do travel should be cautious and stock a car emergency kit.

 And in northern Minnesota, people are just starting to dig out from nearly a foot of snow.

"The car was pretty much buried," said Mike Empting. "I've been working on it here for a little bit and it was up as high as the windows on the side and over the front."

The line of snow ended just northwest of the Twin Cities around Elk River, Hasenstein said. The snowfall peaked around 3 inches (8 centimeters) at the Minneapolis airport, then rain starting early Thursday melted the snowpack.

Officials in North Dakota issued a no-travel advisory for the eastern part of the state due to icy roads and reduced visibility. Blustery winds were causing blizzard conditions in Jamestown, North Dakota, and in northern South Dakota, where transportation officials reported visibility was down to a quarter-mile along a stretch of Highway 10.

Bus service for Fargo, North Dakota, and neighboring Moorhead, Minnesota, was suspended Thursday afternoon because of worsening road conditions. Service is expected to resume Friday with a normal schedule.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for central South Dakota, eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. The storm was expected to drop more than a foot of snow in the region before ending Friday.

The Minnesota State Patrol tweeted that road conditions are poor across much of western Minnesota. Transportation officials said road conditions across much of the central and northern areas of the state are completely covered with ice and snow, with windy conditions causing even more travel issues. The Minnesota Department of Transportation said it might be better to wait for conditions to improve if travel isn't necessary.

The weather service said an estimated 18 inches of snow had fallen by early Thursday afternoon near Finland on Minnesota's North Shore.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol issued a travel alert for parts of North Dakota including Bismarck and Devils Lake due to whiteout conditions. Eastern North Dakota was expected to deal with winds gusting up to 50 mph, creating blizzard conditions mainly in the Red River Valley.

University campuses, courthouses and municipal buildings across North Dakota are among the places closed on Thursday, including the University of North Dakota campus in Grand Forks.

The snow will be tapering off in Minneapolis later Thursday, and the storm is heading east, where it's expected to dump snow and ice on upstate New York and New England on Friday — right before another busy holiday travel period.