BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A large storm brought freezing rain, heavy snow and strong winds to a large swath of the Midwest on Monday, snarling traffic and forcing the closure of some schools and government offices.
The system by midweek also was expected to cause more problems for the Northeast, which is dealing with the aftermath of a destructive and deadly nor’easter.
Parts of the Dakotas were expected to get more than a foot of snow by the time the system moved east on Tuesday, with Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa also getting significant amounts, according to the National Weather Service.
Snowfall reports from the agency as of mid-afternoon Monday totaled as much as 6 inches in South Dakota and 9 inches in North Dakota and Minnesota.
State transportation officials advised against travel in parts of the upper Midwest, and a 211-mile stretch of Interstate 90 in southeastern South Dakota was shut down. I-29 also was set to shut down Monday evening from the North Dakota border to Iowa.
The Highway Patrol in Minnesota reported dozens of crashes, several with injuries. Crash reports were much lighter in the Dakotas, though there were numerous reports of vehicles sliding off icy highways.
“We’ve been really telling people not to drive, not to travel,” South Dakota Department of Public Safety spokesman Tony Mangan said.
There were 120 flight cancellations and more than 300 delays at the Minneapolis airport as of late afternoon, according to Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman Patrick Hogan.
Closures affected mostly elementary and secondary schools, though several colleges and universities also shut down their campuses for the day. Among them were the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, affecting more than 26,000 students. Those large schools don’t often shut down due to weather.
“Safety is always the key factor,” UND spokesman Peter Johnson said.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard ordered state offices to close in 13 counties, though the Legislature was meeting as scheduled in Pierre. North Dakota’s Human Services Department also shut down some outlying offices.
The storm system rolled in from the Pacific and is making its way to the East Coast. By Wednesday it could be causing more problems for the Northeast, which is cleaning up from a weekend nor’easter, said Frank Pereira, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
The nor’easter knocked out power to more than 2 million homes and businesses, flooded coastal towns and forced a number of school districts to cancel classes. It was blamed for nine deaths from Virginia to Massachusetts.
Though it’s too early to detail specific impacts of the storm that will move east out of the Midwest, “this looks to be a significant event for at least a portion of the Northeast,” Pereira said. “A good swath of 6 to 12 inches of snow may fall across portions of the Northeast, and may include the Boston and New York areas.”
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