Worst Blizzard in Decades Hits Great Plains, Southwest

Six dead in unexpected winter storm.


Driving snow and 30 mph winds produced blizzard conditions throughout the west as roads turned treacherous and visibility dropped to zero bringing travel across the Southwest to a standstill.

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Reports indicate that six people were killed and more than 100 stranded along snow-choked roadways as the record-setting storm churned through Texas, New Mexico and Kansas.

Forecasters say the worst snowfall is over, but blizzard warnings and highway closures continue as storm moves east.

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry mobilized the National Guard to help keep the roads passable as the storm's intensity caught safety officials off guard. Many of the affected areas, specifically Texas and New Mexico, aren't equipped to handle massive amounts of sudden snowfall, CNN reported.

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The Associated Press reported the blizzard is responsible for six traffic deaths so far, including four who were killed when their car collided with a pickup truck in eastern New Mexico.

Officials in the hardest-hit areas closed major interstates after motorists were stranded on snowbound roads. Reports indicated low visibility caused New Mexico State Police to close Interstate 40, a major artery that runs from Albuquerque to the Texas state line. In Kansas, a 70-mile stretch of I-70 remained closed Tuesday morning. Nearly 100 calls came in from stranded motorists near west Texas, and police worked through the night to rescue stranded drivers, the AP said.

"We're talking about whiteout conditions," National Weather Service meteorologist Marc Russell said told the AP.

The National Weather Service reported that Pie Town, N.M., received two feet of snow—the highest recorded accumulation of snowfall from the storm. Over a foot of powder blanketed parts of eastern Colorado while areas of Kansas and Texas reported snowdrifts up to a foot. Flights across the region were cancelled during the busy holiday travel week, and hotels in the affected area were overbooked with motorists who simply couldn't continue any further, CNN said. Skiiers also sought safety indoors as trails became impassable.

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Bill Cook, an employee at the Best Western in Clayton, N.M., told the AP that he hadn't seen a storm of this magnitude since the 1970s, when helicopters needed to rescue cattle from deep snow.

The National Weather Service expected the severe weather to continue through Tuesday and gradually taper off as the storm moves east.

"Travel through the region will likely be extremely difficult...if not impossible during the day" on Tuesday, the service said.