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Bitter Cold, Heavy Snow Blast Western Half of USA

10:07 AM, Dec 4, 2013   |    comments
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Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

Fierce cold in the central and western USA brought dangerously low wind chills to the Rockies and Plains on Wednesday and was threatening crops as far west as California. Heavy snow will also add to winter misery in some areas.

Parts of Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas should see low temperatures of at least 20 below zero overnight.

"With the wind factored in, it will feel more like 40 degrees below zero," said AccuWeather meteorologist Elliot Abrams. "That kind of cold is extremely dangerous," he added, as prolonged exposure to those temperatures can cause frostbite, hypothermia and even death.

In parts of California, temperatures could drop into the 20s. The National Weather Service issued hard freeze warnings throughout much of the state for overnight Wednesday and overnight Thursday, where citrus farmers in the Central Valley checked wind machines and ran water through their fields in anticipation of temperatures at or below freezing.,

Snow was also a big story across the Rockies and Plains, where some spots in Idaho and Wyoming had picked up as much as 30 inches from the storm as of Wednesday morning, according to the weather service.

On Wednesday, the heaviest snow is expected to fall in two separate regions: In the Four Corners region of the Southwest and in the upper Midwest. Snow will continue in the Rockies on Wednesday from central/southern Utah and northern Arizona into northern New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming, the Weather Channel reports. Storm total accumulations of up to 2 feet are possible in the high country of Colorado.

In Colorado, despite snow coating Denver International Airport, there were just a few weather-related flight cancellations or delays as of Wednesday morning. As of 6 a.m., there were 26 arriving flights that were delayed and 13 departing flights that were canceled.

Several school systems in the Denver area were closed Wednesday, while a few others had delayed openings.
A separate area of snow will continue to fall from the Dakotas and northern/western Nebraska to Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan through the day on Wednesday.

In Minnesota Wednesday morning, the Minnesota Deportment of Transportation reports multiple accidents that are delaying traffic around the Twin Cities, where most roads listed as snowy or icy. The University of Minnesota-Duluth will be closed Wednesday because of the snow, a move the school rarely makes.

The cold will continue to slowly march to the South and East over the next couple of days. Texas, which saw highs in the 80s Tuesday, may only be in the 40s by Thursday.

Along with the cold, an ice storm could also wreak havoc in the South on Thursday: "Beginning midday Thursday, a potentially major icing event will be possible anywhere from the Southern Plains through the Ozarks and into the Lower Ohio Valley," the weather service warned in an online bulletin.

The potential for slippery travel includes the cities of Dallas, Oklahoma City, Little Rock, Louisville and Cincinnati, reported AccuWeather meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

On Tuesday, the snowstorm forced the closure of a stretch of Interstate 90 between Sheridan and Buffalo, Wyo. In eastern Oregon, authorities closed much of Interstate 84 as trucks jackknifed in the snow. Transportation authorities in Utah and Nevada reported dozens of crashes.

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