Parts of the nation’s heartland awoke todayÂ to more than half a foot of snow, as a large storm made its way eastward out ofÂ the Rockies, snarling traffic for morning commuters and allowing an army ofÂ children to trade pen and paper for shovel and sled, at least for aÂ day.
Winter storm warnings were issued fromÂ Colorado through Illinois, and many school districts cancelled classes ahead ofÂ time, in anticipation of the more than a foot of snow expected to fall in someÂ places.
Kelly Sugden, a National Weather ServiceÂ meteorologist in Dodge City, Kansas, said early today that the storm that hadÂ already dumped heavy snow on Colorado and western Kansas on Wednesday was movingÂ a bit slower than first expected, but was ‘starting to get backÂ together.’
Kansas’ capital, Topeka, had little more thanÂ a dusting of snow after dawn, but in the town of Rozel, roughly 210 miles west,Â 6 1/2 inches had already reported fallen.
Sugden said that while forecasters weren’tÂ expecting blizzard conditions to develop in Kansas, the Interstate 70 corridorÂ could get as much as 13 inches of snow, and large drifts would make driving veryÂ dangerous.
Both Missouri and Kansas have declared statesÂ of emergency in response to the storm.
In Oklahoma on Wednesday, roads were coveredÂ with a slushy mix of snow and ice that officials said caused a crash that killedÂ an 18-year-old driver, Cody Alexander.
Alexander, of Alex, Oklahoma, skidded in hisÂ pickup truck into oncoming traffic on State Highway 19 and was hit by a truckÂ and killed, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.
The other driver wasn’t seriouslyÂ injured.
In northern Arkansas, a school bus crashedÂ Wednesday on a steep, snowy country road, leaving three students and the driverÂ with minor injuries.
Pope County Sheriff Aaron Duval said the busÂ slid off a road on Crow Mountain, nearly flipping before it was stopped by treesÂ at the roadside.
The weather service warned that freezing rainÂ could lead to a half-inch or more of ice accumulating today in central andÂ northern Arkansas, making travelling particularly dangerous. Officials saidÂ the storm could be the Midwest’s worst since a two-day storm that began FebruaryÂ 1, 2011.
That storm was blamed for about two dozenÂ deaths and left hundreds of thousands without power, some for several days.
At its peak, the storm created white-outÂ conditions so intense that Interstate 70 was shut down across the entire stateÂ of Missouri.
Tim Chojnacki, spokesman for the MissouriÂ Department of Transportation, said it planned to have salt trucks on the roadsÂ before the storm arrived in the Show-Me State in hopes that the precipitationÂ would largely melt upon impact.
Much of Kansas was expected to get up to aÂ foot of snow, which many rural residents welcomed after nearly a year ofÂ drought.
Jerry and Diane McReynolds spent part ofÂ Wednesday putting out more hay and straw for newborn calves at their farm nearÂ Woodston in north central Kansas.
The storm made extra work, but DianeÂ McReynolds said it would help their winter wheat, pastures and dried-upÂ ponds.
‘In the city you hear they don’t want theÂ snow and that sort of thing, and I am thinking, ‘Yes, we do,’ and they don’tÂ realize that we need it,’ she said.
‘We have to have it or their food cost in theÂ grocery store is going to go very high. We have to have this. We pray a lot forÂ it.’