Deadly blizzard, ice storm snarls post-Christmas travel across central US

A dangerous and now deadly storm featuring both blizzard conditions and freezing rain are snarling travel along major interstates in the central U.S. for the millions of holiday travelers hitting the road or catching a flight as the Christmas holiday ends.

The storm claimed a life in Kansas when an elderly woman died in a crash along a snowy state highway on Christmas evening.

The driver of a pickup truck heading west on Kansas Highway 156 lost control on the icy road and slid into oncoming traffic, colliding head-on with an eastbound SUV near Larned, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol. An 86-year-old woman riding in the SUV was pronounced dead at the scene, troopers said. Three others were hospitalized. 


Blizzard conditions have led to several other crashes and, at times, closed roads in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, North Dakota and South Dakota as authorities warned of blinding snow and high winds. Drivers have been asked to avoid travel until the weather improves.

North Dakota Highway Patrol closed Interstate 29 from Grand Forks northward to the Canadian border Tuesday, with many area roads completely ice-covered. The National Weather Service said additional ice accretion of up to a quarter inch will occur over eastern North Dakota, with locally higher amounts of up to a half inch.

State transportation officials in Colorado and Kansas temporally closed I-70 from Goodland, Kansas, west to just east of Denver, Colorado Tuesday morning, due to safety concerns. The interstate has since reopened, but some state highways in the area remained closed as of midday.

Parts of Interstate 90 also had temporary closures during the storm through South Dakota.

Ice storm causes problems in the Dakotas

On Tuesday morning, large branches were down in Lisbon, North Dakota, where ice accretion reached 0.45 inches and still icing.  As much as 0.75-1.0 inches of ice accretion was reported in Ashley and Caffee.

A trained spotter in Jamestown, North Dakota, has reported ice accumulation of half an inch to an inch thick on trees and poles.

In Ashley, thick ice was reported coating cars and trees. "Roads are very icy with motorists and the Sheriff’s Department in ditches this morning," a storm report posted by the NWS read.

Blizzard Warnings have been issued in the Plains through Wednesday as the storm brings gusty winds and blinding snow, while Ice Storm Warnings are in effect for eastern North Dakota and parts of northeastern South Dakota through Tuesday evening for "significant" ice accretions. 


It's the second day of winter weather woes in the region. The Nebraska State Patrol responded to over 100 weather-related incidents on Christmas Day. Fortunately, most were slide-offs and non-injury situations.

Parts of southeastern North Dakota remain under a No Travel Advisory due to snow accumulation, icy roads, and reduced visibility. Additionally, adjacent areas of northern Minnesota have dangerous and icy roads. 

More than 170 flights were delayed Tuesday at Denver International Airport, with nearly 20 cancelations reported by FlightAware.

Wind gusts reach over 70 mph

Overnight in Rapid City, South Dakota, sustained winds of around 40 mph with gusts of 50-65 mph were reported. The highest gust recorded so far has been 73 mph. 

"Motorists should not use secondary highways to avoid Interstate closures," South Dakota Department of Transportation officials posted on the agency's website. "Significantly reduced visibilities and blizzard-like conditions will make travel very dangerous during this storm system." 

Nebraska has also seen widespread snowfall, with snow totals of about 4-6 inches. Currently, McClean is leading with 8 inches of snow so far.

What is the forecast for the week ahead?

More rapid intensification of the low-pressure system is expected to occur over the western portion of the Midwest through Tuesday, keeping a significant threat of strong, gusty winds across the north-central U.S.

Over a foot of snow is expected to overlap with wind gusts as high as 50-55 mph in the areas under Blizzard Warnings, some of which will remain in effect through 6 a.m. CST Wednesday.

What's the timing of this massive storm?

The storm is already underway in some areas and will continue to create travel impacts across portions of the Plains and Midwest through Wednesday morning. Here is Tuesday's forecast for the Upper Midwest.

Read more of this story from FOX Weather.