MILWAUKEE — Residents across the Midwest and the Plains who made it home for Christmas were digging out on Friday after a fierce snowstorm while those who spent the night in airports and shelters tried to resume their journeys. Meteorologists warned that roads across the region remained dangerous.
The National Weather Service said blizzards would hit parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin through today. The storm had already dumped significant snow across the region, including a record 14 inches in Oklahoma City and 11 inches in Duluth, Minn., on Thursday.
Slippery roads have been blamed for at least 21 deaths this week as the storm lumbered across the country from the Southwest.
Paul Mews, who drove from Faribault, Minn., to a relative's home in Plum City, Wis., on Friday morning, said the first 15 minutes of the 80-mile trip were clear, but a surge of heavy snowfall produced a stretch of near-whiteout conditions.
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"It was snow-pocalypse. It was wicked," said Mews, 25. "We thought about turning around and going back."
Interstates also were closed in North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. Meteorologists warned that massive snowdrifts and blustery winds could cause whiteouts across the northern Plains. Officials urged travelers to stay home and pack emergency kits if they had to set out.
In Texas, volunteer firefighters and sheriff's deputies rescued hundreds of people stranded along I-44 and Texas State Highway 287 near Wichita Falls. The area recorded up to 13 inches of snow, said Doug Speheger, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Even residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area briefly experienced a white Christmas, their first in more than 80 years.
But by late afternoon, the 3 inches of snow measured at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Christmas Eve was all but melted.