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Storm with blizzard-like conditions rages across U.S. Plains

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Blowing and drifting snow

Interstate closes, flights canceled

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CHICAGO, Illinois -- The strongest winter snowstorm to hit the Northern Plains since a barrage of storms in December is prompting the National Weather Service to issue winter storm warnings and, in some areas, blizzard warnings.

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The snowstorm extended Tuesday from Minnesota and arched south over parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas, CNN Meteorologist Dave Hennen reported.

Parts of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska were under a blizzard warning Tuesday morning, including the Colorado towns of Yuma and Burlington and the Kansas towns of Oberlin, Norton, Goodland and Colby.

Benkelman and McCook, Nebraska, also were included in the blizzard warning area.

Blowing and drifting snow

Forecasters said to expect widespread blowing and drifting snow, reducing visibility to less than a quarter of a mile. Northwest winds were predicted between 30 mph and 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph.

Sheets of ice sent vehicles spinning across roadways in a real-life game of bumper cars and had pedestrians adopting an awkward shuffle to keep from falling.

"We've had quite a few vehicles slide off the highway," said Bruce Armstrong of the Nebraska State Police in Lincoln on Monday.

Visibility was half a mile, and thickening snow covered a treacherous layer of ice, blamed for several pileups in eastern Nebraska, Armstrong said.

In Minnesota and the Dakotas, a winter storm warning was in effect, and forecasters predicted from 5 inches to 8 inches of snow. The National Weather Service advised motorists to drive with extra caution and allow extra travel time.

Interstate closes, flights canceled

Widespread blowing and drifting snow and icy conditions early Tuesday morning forced the closure of Interstate 70 from Goodland, Kansas, west into Colorado, according to the National Weather Service.

In suburban Chicago, Illinois, on Monday, schools were closed due to heavy ice. Schools also were closed in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

United Airlines said bad weather prompted it to cancel 154 of the 2,200 flights it had scheduled for Monday.

The storm is the strongest to hit the region since several powerful snowstorms raged across the Plains and Upper Midwest in December, prompting the National Weather Service to declare November and December 2000 the coldest such period in U.S. recorded history.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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