While the Iowa caucuses and other news have dominated headlines this week, the winter storm that affected the Great Plains (and Iowa) had a major impact on residents of Nebraska and nearby states. Businesses, universities, and schools closed, and road conditions were so hazardous that long stretches of Interstate highway were closed.
(Graphic from The Weather Channel) As best as I can tell, places in light violet had more than 6″-9″ of snow, those in light purple had 9-12″, and the dark purple areas exceeded 12″. Nebraska was hardest hit — the only places that didn’t get a lot of snow were sparsely populated. Much of I-80 (runs along the southern part of the state) was closed. South of there, I-70 was shut down from just east of Denver to central Kansas. Both of these routes have extensive transcontinental traffic. I-29 in extreme southeastern SD (which is flat as a board) and I-90 in Minnesota were also shut down for a while.
The storm also had a lot of wind. Winds in eastern Nebraska gusted to 50 mph in many locations. This caused blizzard conditions to occur along with extensive drifting. (Photo credit: CNN). Iowa had lots of wind, too, but less snow. Portions of northern Kansas and northeastern Colorado also had rough conditions.
So while I earlier referred to this as a “routine” Midwest/Plains blizzard, it was actually a bit stronger than routine. For more stats on the storm, see the Weather Prediction Center’s storm summary. This is the same storm system that caused a few tornadoes in the Deep South yesterday, too.