Blizzards, ice storms wreak havoc

Published 9:53 am Monday, December 26, 2016

CHICAGO — Travel conditions remain hazardous across much of the northern Great Plains as a winter storm continues to sweep across the region.

The combination of freezing rain, snow and high winds that forced the shutdown Sunday of vast stretches of highways in the Dakotas was forecast to continue into this morning.

The storm also has caused widespread power outages in the Dakotas, Nebraska and western Iowa.

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As of 1 a.m. today, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association was reporting 10,231 “member-consumer-owners” were without power. In Nebraska, high winds were cited for hundreds of power outages in central and eastern portions of the state.

“Between the ice and snow, and winds howling like crazy, there will be nothing moving” until late this afternoon, said National Weather Service meteorologist Greg Gust in Grand Forks, North Dakota. “Then it’s dig-out time.”

Gust’s advice to travelers: “Stay put.”

The weather service office in Bismarck, North Dakota, predicted snow accumulations of 8 to 15 inches in western parts of the state and thunderstorms in the central region.

The North Dakota Transportation Department closed most of a 240-mile stretch of Interstate 94 Sunday night, from the Montana border to Jamestown. Portions of U.S. Highways 2, 52 and 281 were also closed because of snow, ice and “near zero visibility.”

Bismarck Police Chief Dan Donlin issued a no travel advisory for the North Dakota capital, where stranded vehicles blocked roadways and intersections.

Authorities in South Dakota shut down Interstate 90 from the Wyoming border to Chamberlain — a distance of about 260 miles.

Icy conditions in Aberdeen, South Dakota, prompted the Brown County Sheriff’s Office to issue a no travel advisory. Aberdeen was also under a weather service flash flood warning after rain and snowmelt flooded major intersections in the city.

The weather service warned anyone who “must travel” on icy roads in central Minnesota to have an extra flashlight, food and water.