LIVE: Snow buries South Dakota as massive spring storm strengthens

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer
By Brian Lada, AccuWeather meteorologist and staff writer
By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
April 11, 2019, 10:32:22 AM EDT

A powerful spring snowstorm slammed South Dakota on Wednesday as it intensified. 

Whiteout conditions and thunder snow accompanied the strengthening storm, leading to extremely hazardous travel conditions across the state. South Dakota officials closed Interstate 29 from Brookings all the way to the North Dakota border for a time on Wednesday and urged residents to stay home.

Treacherous road conditions left several motorists stranded on highways in South Dakota Wednesday. Photos of jack-knifed tractor-trailers and cars that skidded off the road were posted by local officials on Twitter.

11:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Thunderstorms, ice and snow are all occurring within a span of 40 miles in south-central Nebraska.

There is a report of 4 inches of hail accumulation on I-80 between Gibbon and Kearney.

11:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center warned that heavy snowfall rates of up to 1-inch per hour are possible across portions of northwest Kansas into central Nebraska over the next several hours.

9:20 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

A portion of Interstate 90 has been closed east of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. Officials are urging people not to travel.

In southeastern Wyoming around Cheyenne, visibility has been reduced to one-quarter of a mile for nearly 11 hours due to heavy snow and gusty winds.

8:45 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

There are numerous vehicles stuck on I-70 westbound at Georgetown Hill (mm 227) in Colorado. Emergency officials are having a difficult time getting to the scene.

7:45 p.m. CST Wednesday:

Denver, Colorado is on a city-wide Accident Alert as well as Aurora, Colorado. Officials urge motorists to have extra stopping distance and remember to turn on car lights, if you must travel.

An Accident Alert is when weather conditions are so severe that State Troopers and Police Officers are unable to respond to the large volume of motor vehicle crashes.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem closed state government offices in 52 counties. Numerous schools around the state have closed Wednesday into Thursday as well.

6:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

A no travel advisory is in effect for Pennington County, South Dakota roads due to hazardous road conditions.

Officials report that all county plows are in for the night.

5:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Travel conditions continue to deteriorate for fliers and drivers across the central and western U.S.

According to Flight Aware, nearly 700 flights have already been canceled in or out of Denver International Airport because of the storm.

At Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport, 320 flights were delayed and 49 were canceled as a result of the storm.

4:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation officials, I-76 is closed both ways from Lochbuie, which is northeast of Denver, Colorado, to the Nebraska state line.

The Red Cross is opening warming shelters and evacuation centers across Colorado during the storm. The shelters will stay open as long as needed depending on the rapidly changing weather conditions.

3:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Colorado Governor Jared Polis has activated the Colorado National Guard to help with blizzard rescues and stranded motorists. Roughly 50 Colorado Nation Guard soldiers are responding from multiple units.

The traction law is being enforced on I-70 in Colorado between Golden (mm 259) and Idaho Springs (mm 241). The traction law is also in effect between Silverthorne (mm 205) and Georgetown (mm 228).

The chain law is in effect on westbound I-70 from El Rancho (mm 250) to Idaho Springs (mm 241).

2:20 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Blizzard warnings are in effect for northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming, western and central Nebraska, northwestern Kansas, southwestern Minnesota and nearly all of South Dakota.

Officials with the South Dakota Departments of Transportation and Public Safety are closing I-29 from Brookings to the North Dakota border at 1 p.m. CST today (April 10) and I-29 from Sioux Falls to Brookings will likely be closed later this afternoon, depending how quickly weather and road conditions deteriorate.

Officials say drivers should also be aware that conditions on Interstate 90 are deteriorating rapidly as well.

Officials in Minnesota are telling people to avoid I-35 from Medford to Faribault. Traffic is at a standstill as heavy snow has caused multiple crashes.

1:24 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Rocky Mountain National Park officials announced that Moraine Park Campground will be closed after noon local time on Wednesday. The park is located in Estes Park, Colorado.

"It's snowing hard in the park and temperatures are dropping, causing conditions to deteriorate quickly. Snow is now sticking to the pavement at HQ, where it's 31º. Low clouds blocking all views," the official twitter page of Rocky Mountain National Park said in a tweet.

On Wednesday morning, east side roads were covered with heavy snow. Park officials report poor visibility in numerous areas.

The winter driving conditions will continue worsen with this storm, park officials said Wednesday.

12:41 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

A power outage was reported at 12:41 p.m. CST in northwestern Sioux Falls, South Dakota, affecting more than 800 customers Wednesday.

Xcel Energy customers near I-29 and Benson Road in northwestern Sioux Falls are affected.

"Rain and snow already starting across much of the Upper Midwest - worst of the storm still on its way. Our crews are ready to respond to any potential outages," Xcel Energy said in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

12:32 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Rain is changing over to snow in Fort Collins, Colorado, according to the nearby National Weather Service (NWS) office in Denver.

Several crashes have shut down both directions of Interstate 70 in the mountains between Frisco and Copper Mountain in Colorado, local news station ABC7 Denver reports.

12:12 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

No travel is advised through Thursday for Hamlin County and Deuel County in South Dakota, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Aberdeen.

Numerous accidents have been reported in the area, as heavy snow is reducing visibility.

"Unless you are experiencing an emergency, please stay off the roads in Hamlin and Deuel County," NWS Aberdeen said in a tweet.

11:51 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Snow continues to pile up in southwestern Minnesota, especially between Highway 19 and Highway 30. Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), District 8, reports that the Marshall area has accumulated about 5 inches of snow on the ground.

"Reports of vehicles sliding off the road means it's time to slow down, stay back and pay attention to the road," MnDOT, District 8, said in a tweet.

MnDOT released a press release on Wednesday that urges motorists to plan ahead for the pending snowstorm.

"Motorists traveling in Minnesota Wednesday afternoon through early Friday should prepare for a snowstorm that will result in hazardous road conditions," the press release reads.

Officials urge motorists to either delay travel plans or, if they must drive, plan ahead and drive according to the road conditions.

11:38 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Strong, locally damaging winds continue to develop as the storm system deepens. There is a high fire danger for portions of New Mexico and Texas.

Strong winds were reported in El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday morning, with wind at 57 mph of 8 a.m. EST Wednesday.

The National Weather Service (NWS) office in El Paso reported later on Wednesday that winds are picking up throughout the region, decreasing visibility.

11:12 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Snow falls heavily in eastern South Dakota. The South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) reports numerous travel delays and disruptions.

SDDOT maintenance forces are out, but conditions continue to deteriorate, SDDOT Operations Engineer Mark Peterson said in a tweet.

"Don't crowd the plow and only travel if absolutely necessary," Peterson said the tweet.

10:31 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Bryce Canyon National Park, located in southwestern Utah, reports high winds sweeping through the plateau on Wednesday morning.

The park closed the southern scenic drive at Mile 3 due to tree fall hazards along the road. All Bryce Amphitheater views remain open.

9:55 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

The Atlanta Braves and the Colorado Rockies were scheduled to play at Coors Field in Denver, on Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. MDT. However, the game has been postponed due to the inclement weather.

The game will be played on Monday, Aug. 26 at 1:10 p.m. local time, the official twitter account for the Colorado Rockies said in a tweet.

Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that Wednesday night's Colorado Rapids match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, has been postponed due to inclement weather.

The match between the Colorado Rapids and Seattle Sounders will now be played on Saturday, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m. local time.

Denver hit 78 F on Tuesday, and the city will receive more than 6 inches of snow through Wednesday night. Highs on Wednesday in Denver are forecast to reach the 40s.

9:31 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Snow is causing travel delays and disruptions in southwestern Minnesota.

"Expect slick, icy conditions in some areas of SE Minnesota as the snow falls," Minnesota Department of Transportation (DOT), District 6, said in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

Minnesota travel reports Weds Morning- 4-10-2019

A Minnesota Department of Transportation map shows travel disruptions in southwestern Minnesota. Screenshot taken on Wednesday at 9:35 a.m. CST. (Minnesota Department of Transportation)

9:25 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Several airlines, including Delta and Southwest, have already issued travel waivers for travelers who need to rebook flights from April 10-12 in the Midwest and Intermountain West. For Southwest, these cities include, Milwaukee, Denver and Minneapolis. Delta's full list can be viewed here.

9:20 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Extreme fog is reported in the Colorado Foothills above Denver, Colorado, ahead of blizzard.

The incoming storm has prompted several school closures and delays in the Denver area.

8:11 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Snow is causing travel issues across South Dakota this morning. Noem ordered the closure of state government offices today in 52 South Dakota counties due to weather.

South Eagle Butte, South Dakota, has reported 10 inches of snow already.

There have already been reports of thunder and lighting along with snow in the state this morning. Several motorists have been stranded and need assistance from law enforcement.

7:13 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has closed state government offices in 52 counties. Numerous schools around the state have closed on Wednesday.

"People are being urged to stay home and not travel unless absolutely necessary," South Dakota Department of Public Safety said in a tweet early Wednesday morning.

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