Mid-April Blizzard Shuts Down I-80

April 15, 2011; 12:08 PM
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This webcam image, courtesy of the Nebraska Department of Roads, shows conditions on I-80 at Ogallala around 7 a.m. CDT Friday.

A large portion of Interstate 80 has been shut down in Nebraska Thursday night into Friday as a late-season blizzard pummeled the central and northern Plains. Snow will continue spreading through the Upper Midwest Friday night.

The snow Friday afternoon has been focused from eastern Nebraska into the Dakotas. Strong wind gusts in excess of 40 mph have helped to blow and drift the snow, making for dangerous travel and blizzard conditions in some areas.

Overnight Thursday, highway conditions were bad enough to force closures across northwestern Kansas and west-central Nebraska.

A large section of Interstate 80 between North Platte, Neb., and the Nebraska-Wyoming border was still closed midday Friday, according to the Nebraska Department of Roads Advanced Traveler Information System.

Tonight, snow will impact more areas of the Upper Midwest.

"Another swath of heavy snow may develop from northern Wisconsin to the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan Friday night to part of northwestern Ontario by Saturday," stated AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

These two bands of heavy snow will bypass Minneapolis, where snow totals will be held to an inch or less.

Instead, it is the corridor from the Black Hills to north-central Nebraska where storm totals were expected to reach 6 to 12 inches.

Cities within this zone include Rapid City, S.D.; Chadron, Neb.; Valentine, Neb.; and Aberdeen, S.D.

Fargo, N.D. is forecast to receive several inches, while Duluth, Minn., should receive 3 to 6 inches.

With temperatures close to the freezing mark, the snow will be heavy and wet in nature and even mixed with rain in some areas. Where all or mostly snow falls, power lines and tree limbs may succumb to the snow's weight, leading to damage and power outages.

This snowfall forecast is in addition to the snow that fell on Thursday and Thursday night.

Typically, it is difficult for snow to stick on roadways and sidewalks this time of year due to the strong energy from the sun. However, a slushy accumulation can take place if the snow comes down hard enough.

Intense snowfall coating roadways will continue to take place today from north-central Nebraska to eastern North Dakota, including portions of Interstate 90 in South Dakota and even part of I-80 in western Nebraska.

South of the snow zone, a soaking rain will overspread the rest of the Midwest into Friday night. Due to the rain, motorists will be faced with poor visibility and a heighten risk of vehicles hydroplaning.

Farther to the south, the storm delivering the disruptive snow was also the culprit behind deadly strong storms and tornadoes overnight.

AccuWeather.com Meteorologists Bill Deger and Heather Buchman contributed to the content of this story.

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