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The first major winter storm of the year is making its way across the heart of the nation today with devastating and fatal results. Thursday found the storm moving across the midwest after clearing the Rockies earlier in the week.
Blizzards moved with the storm as it moved to the east.
The storm, that dumped a foot of snow in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin. The whiteout conditions made driving hazardous and caused a huge 25-car accident on a highway near Clarion, Iowa early Thursday morning. The blowing snow blinded drivers as they moved along Interstate 35 about 60 miles north of Des Moines. The blinding conditions prohibited drivers from seeing vehicles slowing or coming to a stop ahead of them in the storm.Three people died and seven were injured in chain reaction crashes involving semis and smaller vehicles in that mass accident.
Police advised drivers to stay off of the roads if possible. The snow caused several more accidents throughout Nebraska, Kansas and Wisconsin as well today. Some involved fatalities. In Utah, one woman succumbed to the wintery conditions and died after going for help after she got stuck in the snowstorm. The National Guard was called out in Iowa and Wisconsin to assist stranded drivers along highways. 80 National Guardsmen assisted local authories throughout the day.
High winds and snow were expected in Chicago later in the day. Early in the day foggy conditions caused flight delays and at least 200 cancellations.
The high winds that accompanied the snowstrom pulled down power lines in Iowa causing at least 133,000 customers to lose power in the affected areas.
The southern section of the storm brought tornadoes to Alabama and Arkansas. Twisters torn down power lines and flipped vehicles but no injuries or deaths have been reported from those incidences. Heavy winds pelted Tennessee knocking down power lines and trees as the storm moved east. The storm was felt as far south as Texas where it kicked up dust storms and is blamed for at least one traffic death near Lubbock.
The storm is expected to continue to bring snow and heavy winds to the eastern part of the nation through the night and into tomorrow before dying down. Heavy snow is expected in the Great Lakes region as well as the higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountains tonight and tommorrow.