Blizzards advance north, east; travel treacherous in many areas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings Thursday in the Dakotas as well as portions of Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska. As a major storm moves eastward, interior parts of the Northeast could accumulate as much as one foot of snow, said Zach Taylor, a weather service meteorologist in College Park, Maryland.

“It really, truly has been a coast-to-coast winter storm that has affected a large portion of the country, and that doesn’t begin to even mention the severe weather in the South,” Taylor said.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Transportation has issued travel restrictions until the storm passes. Late Thursday night, winter storm warnings were still in effect in the state’s eastern section. Further warnings stretched through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.

Click here for the latest forecast from the National Weather Service.

Roger Hainy, who owns a farm near Wessington Springs in central South Dakota, said he was shut in after blowing snow formed drifts that made the roads impassable. Hainy’s farm lost power earlier in the week when freezing rain hit the area.

“Back when I was a kid we used to have three-day blizzards, but this one is going to be four days,” Hainy said. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had one like this.”

In Bismarck, North Dakota, an additional four inches of snow were expected Thursday to top a foot that has already accumulated. Wind gusts of 60 miles per hour prompted a no-travel advisory for major highways.

Visibility on I-94 in the Bismarck, N.D., Mandan area is greatly reduced due to blowing snow across the roadway in this view of westbound traffic on the Grant Marsh Bridge over the Missouri River on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

“The wind and ice — it’s miserable, and a lot of people are in the ditches,” said Dean Cota, manager of the Stamart Travel Center, where the parking lot was full of truckers waiting out the storm. “Everything’s just slick and it’s blowing vehicles right off the road.”

Blizzard conditions pelted Minnesota, leaving thousands without power and blanketing roads with ice and snow.

Brianna Vatalaro, 21, in northern Minnesota said she lost power and heat in her home for more than six hours Thursday morning and watched 50-foot trees fall on powerlines, creating blue and green sparks outside her house.

She thought about “all the things that could possibly go wrong,” like not being able to charge or use her phone in an emergency, or needing to help her stepmom who uses a breathing machine that requires power.

Vatalaro tried driving to her job at Home Depot but gave up within five blocks, she said, after seeing trucks spin out on the highway and hopping out of her car to help push a man’s vehicle out of ice and snow. “It’s been chaotic,” she said.

The above video was posted on the North Dakota Highway Patrol’s Facebook page on Thursday, Dec. 15, with the following comment:

“Troopers are often posted at gate closures to encourage motorists to stay off closed roads. Sometimes they witness the craziest things. This occurred at around 3:13 pm on I-94 going east out of Jamestown. The troopers dash cam captured this semi crashing into the road closure gate. The interstate from Jamestown to Fargo was closed at 2:00 pm. I-94 from Dickinson to Fargo and I-29 from Fargo to the SD border remain closed. The entire state of North Dakota is under a no travel advisory.”

In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state is well prepared for several inches of snow expected in some areas over the coming days. During a briefing in Albany, Hochul said there’s also a chance that strong winds could topple power lines.

“We have utility crews all set, already on the ground, ready to respond as quickly as possible,” she said.

Forecasters expect more blizzard conditions in places across the Upper Midwest, and ice and snow from the central Appalachians into the Northeast. The National Weather Service issued an ice storm warning Thursday in parts of four states and a winter storm warning through Friday night from Pennsylvania to Maine. The weather service said heavy snowfall is expected across portions of interior New York and New England through the weekend with storm totals expected to reach one to two feet.

The Trucker Staff contributed to this report.

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