Central America was surrounded by snowstorms, closing highways, schools and government buildings
MADISON, Wis. — A sprawling storm that pelted much of the center of the country with more than a foot of snow and gusty winds created whiteout conditions that closed parts of two highways and prompted officials to close schools and government buildings in several states on Tuesday.
Up to 8 to 12 inches of snow could cover a broad area stretching from southeastern Colorado to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, including western Kansas, eastern Nebraska, much of Iowa, northern Missouri and the Northwest of Illinois, said Bob Oravec, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
Nearly 7 inches of snow fell Monday in the northern city of Athol, Kansas. The weather bureau in Lincoln, Nebraska, forecast that an additional 3 to 5 inches would be possible overnight, with wind gusts as high as 40 miles per hour.
Whiteout conditions in central Nebraska closed a long stretch of Interstate 80, while Kansas closed Interstate 70 from the central city of Russell all the way west to the Colorado border due to hazardous travel conditions. Several vehicles slid off I-70 in the northeastern part of the state, authorities said.
In Nebraska, federal courts in Omaha and Lincoln were closed Monday, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased water flow at a Missouri River dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border near Yankton to reduce the chance of ice jams. Dubuque, on Iowa's eastern border with Illinois, closed its city offices on Tuesday. Schools in Cedar Rapids in eastern Iowa were among those that also closed.
The weather has already affected campaigning for the January 15 caucuses in Iowa, where snow is expected to be followed by frigid temperatures that could dip below zero degrees (minus 18 degrees Celsius).
It forced former President Donald Trump's campaign to cancel multiple appearances by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders and her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who were scheduled to appear in court on Trump's behalf Monday before voters in Iowa.
Parts of northern Missouri braced for up to a foot of snow as the system moved east. Officials in Kansas City, Missouri, said City Hall would be closed Tuesday and municipal courts would operate remotely.
Madison, Wisconsin, was under a winter storm warning until early Wednesday, with as much as 9 inches of snow and winds of 40 miles per hour. City officials have canceled trash collections to prevent residents from leaving trash cans at the curb and making it difficult for snow plows to navigate.
Northwestern Illinois was also under a winter storm warning, with forecasts predicting 6 to 12 inches of snow early Wednesday. Both the Chicago area and Gary, Indiana were under winter storm advisories, with forecasts predicting up to 6 inches of snow and wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour. Snowfall could exceed an inch per hour on Tuesday, the weather service said.
The Illinois Tollway, a state agency that maintains nearly 300 miles (480 kilometers) of toll roads in 12 northern Illinois counties, urged motorists to adopt a “go it slow” attitude.
The disruptions extended as far south as the Oklahoma panhandle, where Cimmaron County emergency managers asked citizens to stay home. More than a dozen motorists were stranded there Monday afternoon, with high winds and snowstorms leading to near-zero visibility, said Lea Lavielle, the county's emergency management director.
“At this time we are advising individuals to shelter in place as best they can,” Lavielle said.
Another storm was brewing that will hit the Pacific Northwest as far away as the northern Rockies, Oravec said. Blizzard warnings were out for much of the Cascade and Olympic areas in Washington and Oregon.