Blizzard warnings have been posted over the Central Plains, threatening delays and perilous road conditions for Christmas Day commuters.
On Monday afternoon, blizzard warnings were issued for sections of Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming, affecting about 1.1 million people.
“Significant winter storm will ‘let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’ over portions of the Central Plains on Christmas where blizzard conditions and hazardous travel are anticipated; treacherous ice accumulations expected in the eastern Dakotas and northern Minnesota,“ the National Weather Service said in the early hours of Monday.
According to CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford, the storm is predicted to bring heavy snow, freezing rain, and severe winds over a vast area of the Central and Northern Plains through Tuesday. Wind gusts of up to 75 mph in sections of the Central Plains could combine with heavy snow to create dangerous whiteout conditions, he predicted.
Heavy snow is forecast in the Northern Plains through Tuesday, with portions of western South Dakota receiving an additional 8 to 12 inches.
Ice storm warnings are in force for the eastern Dakotas and far western Minnesota until Tuesday evening, with power outages and tree damage probable in regions that get heavy ice, according to Shackelford.
In Omaha, Nebraska, street maintenance workers and snowplows hit the streets early in preparation for the holiday winter storm. The meteorological service issued a blizzard warning for much of the state Monday afternoon, with areas of the state predicted to experience 5 to 11 inches of snow and ice accumulations, as well as gusts of up to 40 mph.
“We will have a full street maintenance crew on the job starting at 3:30 a.m. Christmas morning to plow and spread salt as needed.” “Contractor resources are on standby,” Omaha said in a Facebook post.
Douglas County engineer Todd Pfitzer told CNN affiliate KETV that a fleet of 40 snowplows hit the streets at 6 a.m. “You just have to be ready,” said Pfitzer. “Cause if you’re not, and it gets out ahead of you, it can really be a problem.”
Blizzard warnings were also in force for much of South Dakota on Monday afternoon. According to the weather service, parts of the state could receive up to 11 inches of snow, making travel difficult to impossible.
Blizzard warnings were also in force in sections of east central and northeast Colorado, southeastern Wyoming, and northwest Kansas until Wednesday morning.
The weather agency advised individuals in blizzard-prone areas to avoid traveling, but if they must, to bring survival kits and to stay in their vehicles if they become trapped.
“Driving conditions are rapidly deteriorating across the state, particularly in central and north central Nebraska, due to ongoing heavy snow accumulation and high winds.” “Travelers are strongly advised to check https://511.nebraska.gov before departing,” warned the Nebraska State Department of Transportation on Monday morning.
The Nebraska State Patrol advised against traveling.
In Nebraska, blizzard conditions produced slippery roadways and reduced visibility, causing cars to collide and others to tumble off roads. Eastbound I-80 was shut down at York on Monday afternoon due to tractor-trailers stopped on the road, but it has since reopened, according to the Nebraska State Patrol.
The South Dakota Highway Patrol responded to multiple crashes in Watertown due to icy roads and advised drivers that ice-covered roadways and high winds would intensify throughout the day, making driving dangerous.
The winter storm system is expected to disrupt flights in the region, with airports such as Eppley Airfield in Omaha and Sioux Falls Regional Airport in South Dakota warning passengers to check flight status and communicate with airlines about delays and cancellations.
The storm will gradually decrease as it moves across the Central Plains by Tuesday night. However, a wintry mix is expected to linger into Wednesday throughout parts of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest, according to CNN’s Shackelford.
As the storm approaches toward the Northeast, the Weather Prediction Center has issued a minor risk for extreme rainfall for areas such as Washington, DC, New York, and Philadelphia on Wednesday.