A storm churned into the northern High Plains on Friday, packing heavy snowfall and winds of up to 60 m.p.h. to parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Montana that forced the closing of schools and highways.
Although Friday was officially the day spring arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, winter storm warnings, or watches, and livestock advisories were posted in a wide area stretching as far east as the Dakotas and Nebraska.
Snow blown by strong winds closed parts of three interstate highways and many schools in Wyoming. Forecasters warned of near-blizzard conditions in parts of Wyoming and Montana, with total snowfall of as much as 1 1/2 feet forecast.
80 M.P.H. Winds Forecast
Winds of 60 m.p.h. were clocked in parts of Wyoming and Colorado on Friday, and forecasters said winds overnight could reach 80 m.p.h. in the Colorado mountains and foothills.
The storm forced Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan to postpone the first day of his "capital for a day program" when his plane could not land at Douglas. He was forced to fly to Loveland, Colo., where the highway patrol picked him up and drove him to the real state capital in Cheyenne.
"We have whiteout conditions here and it's doubtful if rural children will be able to get home from school," said Betty Cash, a Douglas resident who agreed to take in several children for the night. "It's knee-deep at my front gate right now."
Jim Twiford, transportation director for Converse County schools, said that schools were closed early and about 50 children in Douglas were unable to make it home.
8-Inch Snowfall in Casper
Snowfall in Wyoming included eight inches at Casper, seven inches at Midwest and five inches at Glenrock.
In Denver, the storm brought a mixture of hail, snow and heavy rain Friday morning as commuters fought their way to work.
Farther east, the crest of Nebraska's swollen Elkhorn River moved east Friday after the highest water in years forced sandbagging at Clearwater and Neligh.
"The worst is over from Neligh upstream," said Roy Osugi, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service. "They did experience a record flood."