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“Historic” Snow Blankets Parts of Midwest, Disrupts Travel

January 26, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. — A major winter storm blanketed parts of the middle of the country with snow that was forecast into late Tuesday in some areas, disrupting traffic and closing some coronavirus testing sites.

The National Weather Service said at least 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow was expected across most of an area stretching from central Kansas northeast to Chicago and southern Michigan. Parts of southeast Nebraska and western Iowa got more than three times that much by Tuesday morning.

"This is historic snow," said National Weather Service meteorologist Taylor Nicolaisen, who is based near Omaha, Nebraska.

There were early closures of several coronavirus testing sites on Monday in Nebraska and Iowa, and both states saw more than a foot (30.5 centimeters) of snow in places by Tuesday morning. Nicolaisen said up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) was likely between York, Nebraska, and Des Moines, Iowa, and that it has been at least 15 years since that area received more than a foot of snow in a single storm.

In northern Illinois, snowfall began around sunset Monday and by early Tuesday more than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) was reported in places. Meteorologist Bett Borchardt forecast snowfall up to 8 inches (20.3 centimeters) or more before it ends Tuesday evening. 

The last comparable snowfall hit the area in November 2018, when 8.4 inches (21.3 centimeters) fell.

Chicago on Monday warned residents that hazardous conditions were likely during Tuesday morning commutes and some power outages are possible. City officials have dispatched about 280 salt spreaders to clear main streets and have created warming centers in libraries and park facilities. And a winter weather advisory was issued for northwest Indiana.

Many schools and businesses closed Monday as the storm moved across the Midwest and officials urged drivers to stay off the roads. In western Iowa, Missouri Valley Superintendent Brent Hoesing reworked the lyrics of the 1970s hit "I Will Survive" to tell students in his district, "So Stay Inside."

Roughly 250 semi trucks waited out the storm at the Petro truck stop alongside Interstate 80 in York, Nebraska. Manager Rachael Adamson said she could see knee-high drifts and that sidewalks needed to be shoveled every half hour.

"We haven't had this much snow in quite a few years," Adamson said.

In the South, a tornado touched down in an Alabama city north of Birmingham, leaving one person dead after a tree fell on a home. The tornado hit the Fultondale area of Jefferson County late Monday night, and other homes were damaged along with businesses.

Over the weekend, more than  a foot of snow fell in Southern California's mountains. Interstate 5 was shut down Monday in the Tejon Pass between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley. Wind, snow and ice also forced the closure of State Route 58 through the Tehachapi Pass.

Until recently, California had been experiencing significantly dry weather accompanied by relentless wildfires. A band of clouds suggested more rain could fall Tuesday in areas north and south of San Francisco Bay, bringing the threat of possible flash floods and landslides in areas scarred by the fires.

Sacramento-area National Weather Service forecasters predict an abundance of snow in the Sierra Nevada this week that will make travel difficult.

A storm buried northern Arizona in snow on Monday while sending flurries to the outskirts of Las Vegas and Phoenix. And most of Nevada was bracing for another series of powerful winter storms that could bring several feet for snow to the mountains above Lake Tahoe by Thursday.

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