A cop directs highway traffic in New Mexico on Monday. Parts of the Southwest could see up to 2 feet of snow.
A cop directs highway traffic in New Mexico on Monday. Parts of the Southwest could see up to 2 feet of snow.

Story highlights

NEW: Roads are closed in Oklahoma and Kansas

A blizzard warning is in effect for five states

New Mexico State Police shut down two interstates

Zero visibility is reported along some roads

CNN —  

Travel through the southern Rockies into the central Plains “will be dangerous, if not impossible” Tuesday, forecasters warned, as a winter weather system blasts broad swaths of the West and Midwest.

Visibility in parts of western Kansas and southeast Colorado was less than a quarter-mile, said Ariel Cohen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

A blizzard warning was in effect for those areas along with northeastern New Mexico, the northwest Texas panhandle and the Oklahoma panhandle, he said. The severe weather was starting to affect Missouri late Monday, with a winter weather advisory in effect for the northwest corner of the state.

New Mexico State Police shut down Interstate 40, a major east-west artery, from Albuquerque to the Texas state line, saying there was zero visibility because of blowing snow. Interstate 25 was shut down from just north of Albuquerque to the Colorado state line because of the blizzard conditions, which included snow-packed and icy roads.

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The state police also shut down U.S. and state highways in the northeast corner of the state.

Texas authorities closed I-40 westbound in the Texas panhandle at New Mexico’s request Tuesday morning but had reopened it by mid-afternoon.

Meteorologists call the storm system a strong one that is producing “very hazardous” conditions. And while such storms typically occur around winter, the large area of strong winds combined with the snow is considered unusual.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry activated the Texas Military Forces as a precaution to provide help on the roads, his office said.

Snow accumulations of up to 6 inches were likely, with higher accumulations expected across the northwest Texas Panhandle, Perry’s office added.

Vehicle crashes were being reported around Amarillo, which lies along I-40 on the Panhandle, said Trooper Gabe Medrano of the Texas Department of Public Safety. He said it was already snowing heavily Monday evening and was getting worse.

“We have whiteout conditions for the north of Amarillo at this point,” he said, adding the roads will probably freeze over once the snow stops. “It’s going to make for pretty bad conditions.”

Flights were canceled at Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport for Tuesday morning, spokesman Patrick Rhodes said, but normal operations have since resumed.

To the north, in the Oklahoma panhandle, U.S. highways were closed and transportation workers were salting the roads, according to Michaelann Ootean of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

Roads and highways were “completely snow-packed” or covered with ice in much of western Kansas on Monday, according to the state’s Department of Transportation. They included Interstate 70, which crosses the state from west to east, and Interstate 135 through Salina.

U.S. highways 50 and 54 were shut in southwest Kansas. The DOT said U.S. 50 was closed because of blizzard conditions and “multiple accidents” in Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Transportation shut down highways across the southeastern part of the state because of snow and icy conditions. Interstate 25 was shut southbound from Pueblo to the New Mexico state line, and the DOT said lodging was unavailable south of Colorado City. Northbound I-25 remained open.

CNN’s Nick Valencia, Tracy Sabo, and Greg Morrison contributed to this report.