Blizzard temporarily shuts Nebraska highway

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 15, 2011 5:13 PM

OMAHA, Nebraska (Reuters) - A spring blizzard dumped up to 16 inches of snow in Nebraska, stranding dozens of motorists and forcing the closure of state's main highway, Interstate 80, for 170 miles, officials said on Friday.

Nebraska officials had urged motorists to stay put on I-80, which was closed for just over 17 hours from Thursday night to Friday afternoon to allow authorities to clear stranded vehicles, mainly from a construction zone.

The 12-mile construction zone between Paxton and Ogallala, Nebraska, had many stranded semi-trailer trucks. A handful of accidents were reported, but no serious injuries, Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said.

"Motorists should know travel in the affected area will be slow going for a while yet," Nebraska State Patrol Captain Jim Parish said.

Falling tree limbs weighted with heavy, wet snow pulled down power lines and snapped power poles in the region where the states of Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado meet.

The storm started as rain in some areas and developed to snow overnight with surface winds increasing to blizzard conditions across southwest Nebraska by Thursday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Paxton, Nebraska, was hit by 16 inches of snow and drifts in west central Nebraska reached 5 feet deep, the weather service said.

(Reporting by David Hendee; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)