Severe blizzard predicted to hit US Plains, causing travel disruptions

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Blizzard warnings have been issued across the Central Plains, posing a threat to Christmas Day travelers by causing potential delays and creating hazardous road conditions.

Blizzard warnings were issued for over 1.1 million individuals in areas of Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming on Monday afternoon.

The National Weather Service announced on Monday that a significant winter storm is expected to bring heavy snowfall to parts of the Central Plains on Christmas. Blizzard conditions and dangerous travel conditions are anticipated in these areas. Additionally, the eastern Dakotas and northern Minnesota can expect treacherous ice accumulations.

According to CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford, a significant storm is anticipated to impact a vast area of the Central and Northern Plains until Tuesday. The storm is expected to bring heavy snow, freezing rain, and strong winds, which could lead to widespread travel disruptions in the region. Additionally, parts of the Central Plains may experience wind gusts as high as 75 mph, potentially resulting in dangerous whiteout conditions when combined with heavy snow.

Heavy snow is forecasted for the Northern Plains until Tuesday, with western South Dakota expected to receive an additional 8 to 12 inches.

Ice storm warnings are currently active for the eastern regions of the Dakotas and the far western parts of Minnesota until Tuesday evening, according to Shackelford. These areas are expected to experience significant icing, which may result in power outages and tree damage.

Street maintenance workers and snowplows were out early in Omaha, Nebraska, getting ready for the holiday winter storm. The state was under a blizzard warning in the afternoon, with some areas expected to get 5 to 11 inches of snow and ice, accompanied by gusts of up to 40 mph, according to the weather service.

The city of Omaha announced on Facebook that they will have their full street maintenance staff working from 3:30 a.m. on Christmas morning. Their team will be responsible for plowing the streets and spreading salt as needed. Additionally, they have contractor resources on call to assist with any additional maintenance requirements.

A team of 40 snowplows took to the streets at 6 a.m., as stated by Douglas County engineer Todd Pfitzer in Omaha. Pfitzer emphasized the importance of being prepared, stating, “You just have to be ready. Because if you’re not, and it gets ahead of you, it can really become a problem.”

Blizzard warnings were also active on Monday afternoon across a large portion of South Dakota. The state is expected to receive significant snowfall, with some areas potentially accumulating up to 11 inches. Consequently, travel conditions are likely to be extremely challenging, if not impossible, as cautioned by the weather service.

Blizzard warnings were in effect until Wednesday morning for areas in east central and northeast Colorado, parts of southeastern Wyoming, and northwest Kansas.

The weather service has advised individuals residing in regions that have been issued blizzard warnings to refrain from traveling. However, if travel is absolutely necessary, it is recommended to carry survival kits and to remain in their vehicles in the event of being stranded.

The Nebraska State Department of Transportation has urged travelers to be cautious due to the worsening driving conditions caused by heavy snow and strong winds. According to the department, central and north central Nebraska are the most affected areas. They advised people to check the website for updates before embarking on their journey. The Nebraska State Patrol also issued a warning against travel in these conditions.

Blizzard conditions in Nebraska led to treacherous road conditions and reduced visibility, resulting in multiple car collisions and vehicles sliding off the roads. As a result, the Nebraska State Patrol temporarily closed eastbound I-80 at York to address the issue of stranded tractor-trailers. However, the road has since been reopened.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol was called to multiple crashes in Watertown as a result of icy roads. They issued a warning to drivers about the deteriorating road conditions and strong winds, emphasizing the dangers of driving in such conditions.

The winter storm system is expected to impact flights in the region, prompting airports like Eppley Airfield in Omaha and Sioux Falls Regional Airport in South Dakota to advise travelers to check the status of their flights. Passengers are also advised to consult with their respective airlines for information on delays and cancellations.

According to CNN’s Shackelford, the storm is expected to weaken by Tuesday night as it moves around the Central Plains. However, parts of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest may still experience a wintry mix until Wednesday.

The Weather Prediction Center has issued a marginal risk for excessive rainfall in cities such as Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia for Wednesday as the storm makes its way into the Northeast.

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