ST. LOUIS — An armada of snowplows and salt spreaders were deployed Wednesday on highways across the nation's heartland as a winter storm that's already blamed for one death promised to dump up to a foot of snow in some areas and bring freezing rain and sleet to others.
Winter storm warnings were issued from Colorado through Illinois. By midday Wednesday, heavy snow was already falling in Colorado and western Kansas. In Oklahoma, roads were covered with a slushy mix of snow and ice that officials said caused a crash that killed an 18-year-old man.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said parts of Colorado, Kansas and northern Missouri could get 10 to 12 inches of snow. Dodge City, Kan., was bracing for up to 16 inches. Farther south, freezing rain and sleet already were making driving treacherous.
Officials feared the winter storm would be the worst in the Midwest since the Groundhog Day blizzard in 2011. A two-day storm that began Feb. 1, 2011, was blamed in about two dozen deaths and left hundreds of thousands without power, some for several days. At its peak, the storm created white-out conditions so intense that Interstate 70 was shut down across the entire state of Missouri.
"We're not going to see that type of storm, but it's certainly the most impactful in the last two winters," said Gosselin, who works in suburban St. Louis.
Meanwhile, a separate snowstorm caught many drivers by surprise in California, leaving hundreds stranded on mountain highways. A 35-mile stretch of Highway 58 between Mojave and Bakersfield was closed Wednesday.
Just the threat of snow led to a series of shutdowns in the middle of the country. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback closed state government through Friday morning and urged residents to stay off the roads.
Lawmakers in Nebraska and Iowa canceled committee meetings and hearings, and the Arkansas Senate voted to recess until Monday so lawmakers could make it home before the worst of the storm hit. University of Nebraska officials moved a Big 10 men's basketball game against Iowa from today to Saturday.