Blizzard conditions cripple central U.S.; bitter cold spreads across region
Blizzard conditions engulfed the central U.S. on Thursday, leading to numerous road closures, crashes and at least one death.
In the storm’s wake, bitterly cold weather is forecast, which, despite a brief reprieve over the weekend, promises a frigid New Year’s Eve.
About 145 miles of Interstate 80 — from roughly Grand Island to North Platte — was closed in Nebraska for several hours Thursday while the storm howled and crews cleared crashes.
It reopened about 7:15 p.m. No severe injuries were reported.
The Nebraska Department of Roads reported Thursday evening that most of the roads in the central and northeast parts of the state were completely covered in ice and snow.
The Nebraska State Patrol helped more than 100 drivers who had trouble with the weather.
In western Kansas, a person was killed in a storm-related collision between a car and semitrailer truck on Interstate 70, according to WDAF-TV.
About 75 miles of I-70 was closed for hours because of the storm.
The storm similarly caused problems in the Dakotas and northern Minnesota.
Cliff Cole, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service, said the storm didn’t produce the widespread high snow totals originally forecast.
For the most part, 5 to 6 inches of snow fell in western and northern Nebraska. Up to a foot of snow had been forecast.
North of Grand Island, there was a report of 8.5 inches in Greeley County, according to Jordan Thies, a meteorologist at the Hastings weather service office.
But strong winds — gusting up to 55 mph — were enough to pile up drifts between 1 and 3 feet high in some spots.
Winds were expected to be a problem into Friday morning, before abating.
Miserably cold weather is forecast for Friday morning as temperatures remain locked in the teens and low 20s across the state and strong winds drive down wind chills.
Temperatures should rise a bit over the weekend before plunging again early in the week.
And that means: Plan for a windy, cold New Year’s Eve. In Omaha, strong winds could drop wind chills into the single digits for the city’s New Year’s Eve fireworks show.