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Blizzards Wallop Upper Midwest; Gulf Storm Moves Northeast

January 25, 1988

Undated (AP) _ Blowing and drifting snow made roads impassable from the Dakotas to Iowa as a cold front hurtled across the north-central states, while another winter storm today brought up to 5 inches of snow to North Carolina’s mountains.

″The storm that’s dumping the snow in the East is moving out of the Gulf of Mexico, and the storm that’s causing the blizzard conditions in the Midwest has moved out of Canada,″ Pete Reynolds, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s storm center in Kansas City, Mo., said this morning.

Blowing snow caused sudden whiteouts in the Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa, followed this morning by wind chills of 25 to 50 degrees below zero. Up to 15 inches of snow fell overnight in Ashland County, Wis.

Rain, meanwhile, moving northeast from Alabama changed to snow over the southern Appalachians.

A helicopter pilot carrying a traffic accident victim from Indianola, Iowa, to a Des Moines hospital Sunday night got a close look at the Midwest storm when it forced him to land in a shopping mall parking lot.

″I was flying (at) about 1,500 feet when I was hit by a wall of snow and turbulence,″ said Life Flight pilot Lee Hansen. An ambulance picked up Willa Grissom, 64, of Des Moines, who was hospitalized in serious condition Sunday night.

In Minnesota, Gov. Rudy Perpich late Sunday ordered a National Guard unit to help search for stranded motorists and assist ambulances in northwestern Polk County, a Guard spokesman said.

″We’re telling everybody, ’Don’t go anywhere,‴ sheriff’s dispatcher Don Fall said. ″The wreckers are getting stuck now.″

A farmer north of Moorhead, Minn., said he was out doing chores Sunday morning when he heard the wind pick up. ″It was getting pretty strong so I took off running for the house about 200 feet away, but by the time I got to the house, I couldn’t see the barn behind me. It came that fast,″ said Ron Olson.

A rural St. James, Minn., couple served ham and eggs this morning to more than 60 motorists stranded by the storm. The group represented three countries, five states, 21 cars and five trailer-trucks.

″It’s been quite fun. It’s a lovely group of people,″ said motorist Nickie Jones, 23, of London. ″It was like a jigsaw on the floor last night, with all the people sleeping on it.″

Major roads closed Sunday night included I-80 from Ogalalla, Neb., to the Wyoming border and I-35 from Ames, Iowa to Albert Lea, Minn.

Hundreds of high school students were stranded after the Sioux City Archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization basketball tournament in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Teams from three schools stayed at a motel, but others had to sleep in community college rooms.

In northern Illinois, an arctic blast brought new snow, gusty winds and icy temperatures, including a wind chill of 47 degrees below zero in Moline. Chicago officials dispatched 225 salt and plow trucks this morning.

High winds that cut visibilities to near zero weakened today, after producing gusts up to 58 mph at Dickinson, N.D., on Sunday morning and 61 mph at Rapid City, S.D., during the afternoon.

″It’s defintely improving, the winds are dying down,″ said Dale Branch, a weather service forecaster in Minneapolis. But Redwood Falls in southwest Minnesota still faced near-blizzard conditions today with blowing snow and 35 mph winds cutting visibility to three-quarters of a mile, Branch said.

The winds made already-cold temperatures dangerous for anyone venturing outside in the eastern Dakotas, eastern Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa, the weather service said.

In Alexandria in west-central Minnesota, where it was minus 9 degrees this morning, 20 mph wind produced a wind chill of 51 below zero, Branch said.

Arctic cold also followed in the wake of blizzard conditions in North Dakota, where the Highway Patrol closed I-29 at Grand Forks, and Northwest Airlines canceled flights to and from Fargo.

In North Carolina early today, a winter storm warning was in effect for the mountains, with 3 to 5 inches of snow expected in the northern mountains.

Patchy light snow was reported early this morning in the higher mountains, but a warming in the atmosphere reduced the threat of any snow across the western part of the state except for the higher mountains, the weather service said.

Forecasters said the snow was moving northeast, and would be heavy at times from the southern and central Appalachians through parts of the middle Atlantic Coast states and southern New England.

Update hourly