Drivers urged to stay off roads as snow, ice hit much of Midwest

Holiday blizzard

A dangerous winter storm is threatening millions of people across the U.S. Snow and ice are sweeping across the upper Midwest, producing blizzard warnings in much of North and South Dakota. Dangerous rain conditions stretch from parts of Minnesota all the way south to Texas.

Drivers have been urged to stay of the roads in the northern Plains, where a storm system dropped up to a foot of snow in parts of the Dakotas overnight.

The biggest concern in Minnesota is ice, reports CBS Minneapolis station WCCO’s Rachel Slavik. In Minneapolis, it wasn’t as much a white Christmas as a wet one. Salt was washed off the roads overnight by rain, so falling temperatures could cause bridges and ramps to freeze, and state officials are urging people to avoid any unnecessary travel.

“You catch that very small patch of ice and that’s what’s going to send you spinning off the road,” Sgt. Mike Roach said.

Icy pavement caused one semi-truck to tip on its side on Interstate 494. No one was hurt.

Heavy snow and gusting winds blanketed the rest of the northern Plains on Sunday. Near-whiteout conditions made traveling nearly impossible. Plows struggled to keep up, spreading salt and sand across roadways. State officials shut down hundreds of miles of highway to fight the snow.

Bismarck, North Dakota, declared a “snow emergency” Sunday night, restricting vehicles on city streets to help crews keep routes clear.

Nearly 200 miles east, in Fargo, officials declared a travel alert after freezing rain and snow created slick and slushy conditions. In South Dakota, thousands lost power thanks to snow, ice and 60 mph wind gusts. Officials closed a nearly 260-mile stretch of Interstate 90, warning drivers to stay off the roads.