CHICAGO — The first major winter storm of the year hit the US Midwest yesterday, bringing a blizzard to the Plains and tornadoes to Alabama and Arkansas, and leaving some 133,000 customers without electricity.
Bad driving conditions led to a 25-car pileup on a highway near Clarion, Iowa, that left three people dead, authorities said. Blizzard warnings were in effect in eastern Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois Thursday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s going to be very windy with considerable blowing and drifting of snow,” said Bruce Terry, a senior National Weather Service forecaster at the HydroMeteorological Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. He called the pre-Christmas storm “a major winter snowstorm” for the Midwest and western Great Lakes.
Accumulations of up to a foot of snow were expected in some areas, Terry said, adding there was a potential for severe weather on the so-called “warm side” of the storm in the US Southeast.
Blowing snow led to school closures in parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, plus the closure of all state government offices in Iowa.
“Thunder” snow was reported in Iowa Wednesday night, especially in southeastern Iowa, as thunder and lightning accompanied the storm as it surged across the state.
Travel was not advised on Iowa roads for the rest of the day, according to Annette Dunn with the Iowa Department of Transportation.
“We’re going to have visibility and drifting problems through midnight,” she said.
Late yesterday morning, troopers responded to a 25-car crash which killed three people on southbound Interstate 35 in northern Iowa. Iowa DOT closed I-35 at Highway 30 due to deteriorating conditions.
The Iowa National Guard has deployed about 80 soldiers from across the state to help highway assistance teams cope with the storm. (Reuters)