Blizzard Hammering the Dakotas, Minnesota
By By Meghan Evans, Meteorologist
February 21, 2011, 10:23:01 AM EST
A blizzard hammering portions of the Dakotas and Minnesota will nearly shut down travel at times through tonight, while a treacherous zone of ice falls farther south across the Midwest.
Travel will become extremely difficult to nearly impossible at times along portions of I-29, I-35, I-90 and I-94 as the storm unfolds.
Stretches of roads and highways may need to be closed by officials as conditions continue to deteriorate.
Significant blowing and drifting of snow has already occurred across portions of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
The area that will get hit hardest by snow and wind will encompass much of South Dakota, southeastern North Dakota and southwestern Minnesota.
A foot of snow, with locally higher amounts, will thump across communities that lie in this corridor.
Some communities in western South Dakota have already been buried by close to a foot and a half of snow. Rapid City, S.D., has received over half a foot of snow.
Sustained wind will whip this zone at over 30 mph with gusts over 40 mph. Significant blowing of snow will reduce the visibility to a quarter of a mile and lower for several hours as a result.
Drifting of snow back onto roads will also continue to challenge road crews throughout the storm's pounding of the Midwest.
The high winds and frigid arctic air plunging into the region will combine to create dangerous subzero AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures.
People are strongly urged not to venture out in the storm, because they will run the risk of becoming stranded in the brutal cold.
Aberdeen, S.D., will be in the heart of the blizzard conditions.
While blizzard criteria may not be met in Minneapolis, it will be a major snowstorm that will have a big impact on travel in the city.
Up to a foot of snow is expected to bury the Twin Cities. Winds will still get rather windy with gusts over 30 mph at times that could contribute to blowing snow and dangerous, low visibility.
Snow will be falling, heavily at times, all the way from the Rockies through the central Great Lakes.
Green Bay, Wis., will also get up to a foot of snow from this storm.
Meanwhile, much milder air is surging in from the south, causing other troubles. Freezing rain and sleet have been falling and creating a glaze of ice on roads across portions of Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.
An icy mix will continue to expand northward and eastward across southern Michigan, northern Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania through tonight.
Some slide-offs and accidents have already occurred. A vehicle slid off of Highway 83 near Thedford, Neb., early this morning due to a slick glaze of ice on the roadway. Numerous slide-offs also occurred in the Shullsburg, Wis., area.
About a quarter of an inch of ice has coated trees in portions of northern Iowa, including the Dubuque area. In fact, freezing rain was falling heavily enough that thunder and lightning accompanied it in some communities. Some small branches are snapping under the weight of ice.
Half an inch of ice has accumulated in Thedford, Neb.
Areas north of Chicago will deal with a wintry mix that could accumulate around an inch before it changes over to rain. Icing will once again be a concern overnight including in the city itself as temperatures plummet, so motorists are urged to exercise caution.
Icing may be an even bigger problem farther north and east, including in the Detroit area. Sleet and freezing rain will continue through the night, causing the potential for some power outages in the area.
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