System drops heavy snow, zaps mild temps in northern Plains

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A wintry blast dropped heavy snow Friday in northern Plains states, including more than a foot in one northern Minnesota county, and sent cars and semitrailers into roadside ditches.

A spotter for the National Weather Service reported nearly 14 inches of snow fell at a location in Cass County by early Friday afternoon. In Itasca County, a foot of snow fell near Coleraine, with 5 inches falling in less than two hours, another observer reported.

Along with heavy snow, the storm also ushered in howling winds that made driving dangerous and erased what had been almost summer-like temperatures.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation noted at least four jackknifed semitrailers along snow-covered highways. The department’s website also advised motorists not to travel on roads along a swath from southwestern to northeastern Minnesota.

Whiteout conditions were reported Friday morning in Brookings, South Dakota, and surrounding areas, and officials warned against trying to drive in the worst-hit areas. By late Friday morning, the South Dakota Highway Patrol had warned that Interstate 29 north was blocked in the southern part of the state because of an overturned semitrailer lying across the roadway.

Only two days earlier, much of the region had seen high temperatures hovering around 70 degrees, said National Weather Service meteorologist Cody Moldan, in North Platte, Nebraska. By Friday, temperatures had dipped about 40 degrees and were expected to fall into the single digits and teens in the area by early Saturday morning, he said.

An upper level system that hit the Rocky Mountains region to the west had moved into western and northern Nebraska by late Thursday, Moldan said, bringing half a foot of snow to some parts of Nebraska.

“It didn’t reach the level of blizzard in Nebraska, but there has certainly been hazardous travel,” he said.

Moldan said 6 inches of snow fell in Newport, Nebraska, overnight, while amounts from 3 inches to more than 5 inches fell in other parts of northern Nebraska before the storm moved northeast Friday morning into the Dakotas and Minnesota.

The National Weather Service had said up to a foot of snow could fall in parts of Minnesota, with 3 to 8 inches elsewhere by Saturday morning. But meteorologist Amanda Graning of the National Weather Service in Duluth, Minnesota, said Friday afternoon that some areas in northern Minnesota could see up to 2 feet of snow.

Dozens of schools in Minnesota and South Dakota canceled classes Friday in anticipation of the storm.

Todd Heitkamp, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said the northeastern part of South Dakota was receiving the heaviest snowfall, with up to 10 inches expected.

High winds swept a wider area, with the weather service warning of gusts higher than 55 mph as far south as Iowa.