A major snow storm has hit the Great Plains early today, complet with high, fierce winds and snow that has caused several fatal road accidents in five states, and forecasters warning that pre-holiday travel would be difficult if not impossible across the region.
Nearly 100 rescue calls came in from motorists in the Texas Panhandle as blizzard conditions forced closed part of Interstate 40, a major east-west route, Monday night.
About 10 inches of snow had fallen in western Kansas before dawn Tuesday and several more inches along with strong wind gusts were expected. Forecasters say this could have “whiteout conditions”.
Travelers have reported up to 15 wrecks including rollovers, upside down cars and jackknifed trucks as they drove through Colorado.
Snowpack and icy conditions forced the closure of roadways across western and southwestern Kansas, including a western section of the I-70, the main thoroughfare that traverses the state.
The storm was blamed for at least six deaths Monday, authorities said. Four people were killed when their vehicle collided with a pickup truck in part of eastern New Mexico where blizzard-like conditions are rare, and a prison guard and inmate died when a prison van crashed along an icy roadway in eastern Colorado.
The late-autumn snowstorm lumbered into the region Monday, turning roads to ice and reducing visibility to zero. The conditions put state road crews on alert and had motorists taking refuge and early exits off major roads across the region.
In northern New Mexico, snow and ice shuttered all roads from Raton to the Texas and Oklahoma borders about 90 miles away. Hotels in Clayton, N.M., just east of where the three states touch, were nearly full.