* Blizzard warnings issued for Plains, western Midwest
* Part of I-70 in Colorado closed by blowing snow
* Many areas to have a White Christmas
By Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO, Dec 19 The first major winter storm of
the season, which started Tuesday in the Rocky mountains, could
dump more than a foot of snow in some areas of the central
Plains late Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
"It has evolved into a full-fledged blizzard around the
Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas border area..." said Alex
Sosnowski, meteorologist for Accuweather.com. "It's a pretty
He said the wind attached to the storm is also blowing dust
in the West Texas area, causing traffic accidents.
In Colorado, Interstate 70 was closed east of Denver to the
Kansas state line due to high winds blowing snow into drifts and
reducing visibility, said Mindy Crane, spokeswoman for the
Colorado Department of Transportation.
Several other roads in eastern Colorado were closed because
of the blizzard conditions, she said.
Crane also said a stretch of Interstate 70 in the mountains
near the ski resort of Vail was closed temporarily on Wednesday
so crews could do some work to prevent avalanches.
The storm marks a major change from the mild December so far
in most of the nation, Sosnowski said. This means many parts of
the country could see a White Christmas. More storms are
expected in the middle of next week.
Blizzard warnings have been issued Wednesday in parts of
Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin
and Michigan, meteorologists said.
The heaviest snow is falling at a rate of up to an inch per
hour in parts of Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado. The worst of the
blizzard is expected to hit communities from Omaha, Nebraska, to
Green Bay, Wisconsin, Wednesday night into late Thursday,
according to Accuweather.com.
In Chicago, the storm is expected to begin as rain and later
change to snow Thursday, Sosnowski said.
Heavy snow and high winds were expected anywhere from the
central plains into the Midwest/Great Lakes regions through much
of the day Thursday, the National Weather Service said.
Hazardous travel conditions were expected through Thursday and
into early Friday.
Moisture off the Gulf of Mexico is expected to cause rain in
the lower Mississippi River Valley Thursday, pushing east into
the southeastern states Friday.
In the West, a system along the Pacific coast will bring
scattered snow and rain showers into the northwestern states,
according to the weather service. Over a foot of snow is
expected in the higher elevations of the Washington Cascades and
(Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Reporting By
Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Bob Burgdorfer)