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Blizzard conditions hit Midwest

March 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

DES MOINES, IOWA — Heavy, wet snow and blizzard conditions hit the Plains and Midwest on Thursday, shutting down hundreds of miles of interstate highways.

Schools closed in several states, and hundreds of flights were canceled. Snowplows were pulled off the roads in western Minnesota because of strong wind and heavy snow.

The storm moved into Iowa with rain and sleet, changing to snow around dawn.

The western part of the state was hit with a blizzard that dropped visibility to a quarter-mile or less for at least three hours. By midday, as much as a foot of snow covered the town of Atlantic.

The blizzard also hit eastern Nebraska, with a foot of snow in the Omaha area and up to 15 inches of snow expected in some areas before it dies off today.

With up to 18 inches of snow expected in parts of Iowa, Gov. Chet Culver issued a disaster declaration, clearing the way for state aid, and authorities warned people to stay off the roads.

"There's a real chance for people to get themselves stranded in some real treacherous conditions," said Jim Saunders, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Dena Gray-Fisher advised against using back roads to get around closed interstates.

"Those areas are the last areas that officials will be looking for stranded motorists," she said.

Snowplows had been pulled off the roads in western Iowa because of deteriorating conditions, Gray-Fisher said.

"There are so many cars in the road and semis jackknifed and whiteout conditions that it's just not safe and they are unable to make any progress," she said.

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