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Winter storm weakens but travel still hazardous in places

  • THE BISMARCK TRIBUNE VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Madori Griffin, who said her car was snowed in, made her way through an intersection while walking to work in the intensive care unit of Sanford Hospital in Bismarck, N.D.

CHICAGO >> The fury of the winter storm that swept into the northern Great Plains on Christmas Day was weakening this evening, but blowing and drifting snow continued to hamper travel in many areas.

The combination of freezing rain, snow and high winds that forced vast stretches of highways in the Dakotas to be shut down Sunday continued into today, and authorities issued no-travel warnings for much of North Dakota.

Meanwhile, in parts of the South, unseasonably warm temperatures were raising the risk of tornadoes and damaging thunderstorms. About 3 million people in parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee could see damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes Monday, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., said, but no major outbreak was expected.

The National Weather Service’s blizzard warning for western and central North Dakota expired this afternoon, but the agency warned snow drifts still blocked some roads.

Severe whiteout conditions led to the closure of Minot International Airport, and the facility wasn’t expected to reopen until 3 a.m. Tuesday. The airports serving Fargo and Bismarck also listed flight cancellations on their websites.

Interstate 94 remained closed west of Jamestown, N.D. Interstate 90, which had been closed for 260 miles between the Wyoming border and Chamberlain, S.D., was reopened to traffic today.

Winds gusting 40 mph to 50 mph associated also led to delays and cancellations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The storm also has caused power outages in the Dakotas and Nebraska.

The South Dakota Rural Electric Association said roughly 16,400 of its customers were without power this evening. In Nebraska, winds gusting up to 70 mph were cited for hundreds of power outages in central and eastern portions of the state Sunday, although by this morning, utilities reported that power had been restored to most customers.

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