A massive winter storm has unleashed its fury across the midsection of the United States, engulfing the region with heavy snowfall and gusty winds. As a result, whiteout conditions have forced the closure of sections of two interstate highways, while schools and government offices in multiple states have shut their doors.
The storm system is anticipated to dump up to 12 inches of snow (20-30 centimeters) across a wide area spanning southeastern Colorado to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Regions such as western Kansas, eastern Nebraska, large parts of Iowa, northern Missouri, and northwestern Illinois are all expected to be significantly affected by this snowfall event, according to Bob Oravec, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.
Impact and Closures
The northern city of Athol, Kansas, already received nearly 8 inches (19 centimeters) of snowfall on Monday. As the storm progresses, the weather service office in Lincoln, Nebraska predicts an additional 3-5 inches (8-13 centimeters) overnight, accompanied by potentially powerful wind gusts reaching 40 mph (64 kph).
In response to the severe weather, Omaha and Lincoln federal courts in Nebraska suspended operations on Monday. Furthermore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased water flow at a Missouri River dam near Yankton, located on the Nebraska-South Dakota border, in an effort to prevent the formation of ice jams. Meanwhile, Dubuque, situated on Iowa’s eastern border with Illinois, has closed its city offices. Numerous schools, including those in Cedar Rapids, Eastern Iowa, have also been closed due to the ongoing storm.
Impact on Iowa Caucuses
The inclement weather conditions have already had an impact on the campaign trail ahead of Iowa’s Jan. 15 precinct caucuses. In addition to heavy snowfall, frigid temperatures are expected to plummet below zero degrees (minus 18 Celsius). Consequently, former President Donald Trump’s campaign had to cancel multiple appearances by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders and her father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who were scheduled to rally Iowa voters on his behalf on Monday.
Winter Storm Blanketing Midwest and Northern US
Parts of northern Missouri braced for a heavy snowfall as a winter storm moved eastward. City officials in Kansas City announced the closure of City Hall on Tuesday, with municipal courts operating remotely. In Madison, Wisconsin, a winter storm warning was in effect until early Wednesday, accompanied by up to 9 inches (23 centimeters) of snow and winds reaching 40 mph (64 kph). Garbage collection was canceled to ensure that snowplows could navigate the streets unobstructed.
In northwestern Illinois, a winter storm warning was also in place, with forecasts projecting 7 to 12 inches (18 to 30 centimeters) of snow by early Wednesday. The Chicago area, along with Gary, Indiana, were under winter storm advisories, expecting up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) of snow and wind gusts of up to 30 mph (48 kph). The weather service warned that snowfall rates could exceed one inch per hour on Tuesday.
The Illinois Tollway, responsible for maintaining nearly 300 miles (480 kilometers) of toll roads across 12 northern Illinois counties, advised drivers to exercise caution and adopt a slow-paced approach while traveling.
The storm’s disruptions extended to southern regions, including the Oklahoma panhandle. Cimmaron County emergency managers urged citizens to stay home due to blizzard conditions and near-zero visibility. Several motorists were stranded in the area on Monday afternoon. The county’s emergency management director advised individuals to seek shelter where possible.
Furthermore, meteorologist Oravec reported another storm approaching the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies, expected to bring blizzard conditions. Blizzard warnings were issued for various mountain ranges in Washington and Oregon, including the Cascade and Olympic ranges.