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Holiday snowstorm hits much of central U.S.

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Midwest's white Christmas
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Interstate-94 closed from Iowa border to Canadian border because of storm
  • Five Oklahomans killed during storm that dumped 14 inches, CNN affiliate KWTV reports
  • Blizzard warnings issued Friday for several counties in Minnesota
  • National Weather Service says Duluth, Minnesota, may get 2 feet of snow

(CNN) -- The dream of a white Christmas was turning into a nightmare for some as forecasters predicted a heavy snowstorm would continue on Friday across parts of the central United States.

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where snowfall totals reached about 14 inches, crews were out in full force Friday trying to clear roads, move abandoned cars and rescue motorists, CNN affiliate KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City reported. Officials told KOCO some motorists were still trapped Friday and likely spent the night in their vehicles, though hundreds were rescued and taken to shelters.

Forecasters predicted more snow for areas already covered by heavy snowfall Thursday.

The National Weather Service said widespread blizzard conditions would continue in North Dakota through Saturday afternoon, with snowfall totals reaching about 14 inches.

Interstate 94 was ordered closed at 4 p.m. from the Iowa border to the Canadian border due to zero visibility, drifting snow and severe wind gusts, according to a statement from the North Dakota Department of Transportation. The National Weather Service in Bismarck, North Dakota, urged all drivers to stay off the roads, saying they will be "difficult if not impossible" to travel on.

Blizzard warnings were issued Friday for several counties in Minnesota until 6 p.m., according to the weather service. Winter storm warnings were also issued for parts of Iowa and north central Wisconsin.

In north central Kansas, 2 to 6 inches of snow was expected to fall and 6 to 12 inches could pile up across parts of northeast and east central Kansas.

Throughout Minnesota, an additional 1 to 3 inches of snow was expected Friday night, and in the north shore area of Lake Superior, 3 to 6 inches could fall, the weather service said.

Snowfall accumulation in Duluth, Minnesota, and Proctor, Minnesota, will reach about 2 feet, the National Weather Service reported.

"The combination of strong winds and falling and blowing snow will cause dangerously low visibility and drifting snow" for Duluth, the weather service reported.

More than 100 churches in central Nebraska canceled Christmas services, CNN affiliate KHGI-TV reported.

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The decision for safety's sake could put a serious dent in some churches' finances.

"The Christmas collection in a parish typically is very important," the Rev. William Dendinger, the Roman Catholic bishop of Grand Island, Nebraska, told KHGI. "We hope those people who don't make it that day will be there New Year's Eve or New Year's Day and make those kinds of contributions."

Low visibility and dangerous roads were hallmarks of the storm on Thursday.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry ordered every state highway, interstate and turnpike closed Thursday night, hours after declaring a statewide emergency because of the major winter storm.

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At least five people were killed in Oklahoma during the storm on Thursday, CNN affiliate KWTV in Oklahoma City reported.

Three people were killed on state roads when they were struck by cars: A Marlow man who was helping another stranded motorist; a Lawton man who was struck after exiting his vehicle, which had crashed; and a Seminole man who was struck after his car stalled.

KWTV also reported a 79-year-old woman was found dead on her porch Friday morning in Midwest City. Officials told KWTV she may have died from exposure.

Treacherous conditions Thursday also caused nearly 50 vehicles to collide in a chain-reaction accident Thursday in Midwest City, KOCO reported.

The weather at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, where 13 inches of snow fell on Thursday, forced it to close. It re-opened Friday with one operational runway, according to KWTV.

In 106 years, residents of Oklahoma City have awakened to snow six times on Christmas morning, CNN's Sean Morris said.

Watch as snow blankets Oklahoma City Video

Minnesota State Patrol Capt. Matt Langer said while his state was used to bad winter weather, officers were still handling a large number of calls -- upward of 800 on Thursday -- involving crashes and stranded motorists.

The inclement weather is the second major storm system to hit the United States in a week. Last weekend, a nor'easter blanketed a swath of the East Coast in snow, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.

CNN's Mallory Simon contributed to this report.

 
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