Major blizzard pummels U.S. Northern Plains, flights canceled

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An 80-feet wall of snow covers Hiland Road in Anchorage, Alaska

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) – A major blizzard slammed North Dakota on Tuesday with snow, high winds and whiteout conditions, and meteorologists said the spring snowstorm could rage into Thursday, becoming one of the biggest in a quarter century.

Bismarck Airport canceled all flights for the day. State offices closed at 12:30 p.m. local time and residents were urged to stay off roads due to treacherous conditions.

“Its definitely looking like its going to pack a punch,” Rick Krolak of the National Weather Service office in Bismarck said of the storm, which began blowing snow across the city early on Tuesday morning.

“We started seeing snow in Bismarck at 4 a.m., winds kicking up causing whiteout conditions,” Krolak said.

Two feet of snow were predicted across much of the state. Northern cities such as Minot could see up to 30 inches by Thursday, when the weather system was expected to move northeast and out of the region.

Krolak said the storm brought to mind the blizzard of 1997 that hit on April 4 of that year, dumping up to two feet of snow in some areas, knocking out power to thousands of residents and leaving motorists stranded on major highways.

The National Weather Service warned of potential power outages from this year’s storm as well.

A separate weather system brought thunderstorms, high winds, heavy rain and hail across the U.S. Midwest and into the south, spinning off at least one tornado in the Little Rock area on Monday.

The National Weather Service issued tornado warnings were issued across the state on Tuesday and the University of Central Arkansas canceled all classes for the day.

The weather service announced severe thunderstorm watch for parts of Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee through Tuesday afternoon.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by David Gregorio)