Snow and ice give jumpstart to winter

An early dose of wintry weather plastered parts of Texas and Oklahoma with snow and ice on Wednesday, while the upper Midwest started digging out from a storm that surprised forecasters with up to 29 inches of snow.

"If you don't know how to cuss, this will teach you," said Ralph Bradley, police chief in Clara City, Minn.

The storm that swept onto the southern Plains beginning Tuesday had been blamed for dozens of accidents, including one in southwestern Oklahoma that killed a passenger. Five traffic deaths were blamed on the weather on the northern Plains and Upper Midwest.

Two to 3 inches of snow coated a wide swath of Oklahoma on Wednesday morning. Snow drifts had covered roads in Cordell, Okla., where crews were still clearing rubble left by tornadoes last month.

Two inches of snow had accumulated Wednesday at the Texas Panhandle town of Tulia, north of Lubbock. Up to 6 inches was possible in some areas, the National Weather Service said.

Ice glazed bridges outside Fort Worth and coated vehicles in the central Texas town of Junction. The storm had slowed, extending the threat of freezing rain and sleet for the Dallas-Fort Worth area into Thursday morning, the weather service said.

"Being that it's Dallas, we don't even carry ice scrapers," said Cornelia Lincoln, manager at a Target store in Dallas. "But people are coming in to buy heaters and electric blankets and that sort of thing."

The ice extended west into New Mexico, delaying some school openings for a couple of hours Wednesday and closing sections of major highways, including Interstate 10 between the southern cities of Las Cruces and Deming.

and I-25 at Truth or Consequences. Eight inches of snow fell at the mountain town of Ruidoso.

The storm hit the southern Plains as states to the north were finally getting a break from heavy snow that closed schools on Tuesday from Nebraska to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, many for a second day. Some central Minnesota schools stayed closed on Wednesday.

Snow surprise

Snow had stopped falling Wednesday in much of Wisconsin and in Minnesota, where Willmar got more than 29 inches of snow Tuesday.

"It's kind of amazed us," meteorologist Seth Binau said of the snow at Willmar, some 100 miles west of Minneapolis.

"The scene reminded me of one of those old movies where abandoned cars were all over the road and nobody was around," said Willmar resident Miki Schmidt.

Snowplow crews were pulled off highways in parts of southwestern and western Minnesota on Tuesday because of zero visibility and poor road conditions.

Minnesota had three traffic deaths blamed on slippery highways. Wisconsin and Wyoming had one each.