MILWAUKEE – Residents across the Midwest and the Plains who made it home for Christmas were digging out Friday after a fierce snowstorm while those who spent the night in airports and shelters tried to resume their journeys. Meteorologists warned that roads across the region remained dangerous.
The National Weather Service said blizzards would hit parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin through today. The storm had already dumped significant snow across the region, including a record 14 inches in Oklahoma City and 11 inches in Duluth, Minn., on Thursday.
Slippery roads have been blamed for at least 21 deaths this week as the storm lumbered across the country from the Southwest. Ice storm warnings and winter weather advisories were issued for parts of the East Coast on Friday, but the region was largely spared.
Paul Mews, who drove from Faribault, Minn., to a relative’s home in Plum City, Wis., on Friday morning, said the first 15 minutes of the 80-mile trip were clear, but a surge of heavy snowfall produced a stretch of near-whiteout conditions.
“It was snow-pocalypse. It was wicked,” said Mews, 25. “We thought about turning around and going back.”
Mews decided to continue when the surge passed minutes later. Others weren’t as lucky.
Army Sgt. Mark Matthey was spending Friday night at the Flying J Travel Plaza in Sioux Falls, S.D., after Interstate 90 closed. Matthey, 26, left Fort Bragg, N.C., on Wednesday for his hometown of Spokane, in hopes of making it by late Friday or early today.
Instead, he spent Friday afternoon drinking coffee, watching TV and making friends at the truck stop. He planned to find a spot to sleep on the floor or in the cab of his truck.
Interstates also were closed in North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. Meteorologists warned that massive snowdrifts and blustery winds could cause whiteouts across the northern Plains. Officials urged travelers to stay home and pack emergency kits if they had to set out.