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Mid-South braces for winter weather as storm moves East

A powerful pre-winter storm dumped up to 2 feet of snow in Minnesota and Wisconsin, drove the wind-chill factor to minus 40 in North Dakota and kept shivering ice skaters huddled next to the hearth in South Dakota. And with more than two weeks until winter officially arrives, a swath of the nation less accustomed to ice and snow braced for impact on Friday.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, southern Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee faced ice-storm warnings.

“This is a major winter storm,” the weather service said. “Treacherous driving conditions have already developed.”

Snow, sleet, ice and strong winds were on the way and had already arrived in some areas, the weather service said Thursday night. Freezing rain was expected to spread through the mid-South, with significant icing from Jonesboro, Ark., to Union City, Tenn.

“Ice accumulations will make travel dangerous or impossible,” the weather service said. “Travel is strongly discouraged.”

Temperatures in Montana fell as low as minus 26 Thursday in Great Falls and minus 27 in Havre, both records. In parts of the Rockies and Northern Plains, wind made low temperatures feel even colder.

The Denver Zoo closed because of the cold. During the day, the high was 9 degrees, and overnight temperatures were expected to reach minus 10. 

In the Northern Plains and parts of the Midwest, schools were closed and holiday events were canceled. In Rapid City, S.D., where Thursday’s high inched up to 6 degrees, officials concluded it was too cold for ice skating. Overnight, the weather service said, Rapid City's low would feel like minus 35 in the wind.

connie.stewart@latimes.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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