ST. LOUIS — An armada of snow plows and salt spreaders deployed Wednesday on highways across the nation’s heartland as a winter storm that’s already blamed for one death promised to dump up to a foot of snow in some areas and bring freezing rain and sleet to others.
Winter storm warnings were issued from Colorado through Illinois. By midday Wednesday, heavy snow was already falling in Colorado and western Kansas. In Oklahoma, roads were covered with a slushy mix of snow and ice that officials said caused a crash that killed an 18-year-old man.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jayson Gosselin said parts of Colorado, Kansas and northern Missouri could get 10 to 12 inches of snow. Dodge City, Kan., was bracing for up to 16 inches of snow. Farther south, freezing rain and sleet already were making driving treacherous.
Cody Alexander, 18, of Alex, died when the pickup truck he was driving skidded out of control in slush on State Highway 19, crossed into oncoming traffic and was hit by a truck, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said. The other driver was not seriously injured.
In northern Arkansas a school bus crashed Wednesday afternoon on a steep, snowy country road, leaving three students and the driver with minor injuries. Pope County Sheriff Aaron Duval said the bus slid off a road on Crow Mountain, nearly flipping before it was stopped by trees at the roadside.
Officials feared the winter storm would be the worst in the Midwest since the Groundhog Day blizzard in 2011. A two-day storm that began Feb. 1, 2011, was blamed for about two dozen deaths and left hundreds of thousands without power, some for several days. At its peak, the storm created white-out conditions so intense that Interstate 70 was shut down across the entire state of Missouri.
“We’re not going to see that type of storm, but it’s certainly the most impactful in the last two winters,” said Gosselin, who works in suburban St. Louis.
Tim Chojnacki, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation, said it planned to have salt trucks on the roads before the storm arrived in the Show-Me State in hopes that the precipitation would largely melt upon impact.
Much of Kansas was expected to get up to a foot of snow, which many rural residents welcomed after nearly a year of drought.
Jerry and Diane McReynolds spent part of Wednesday putting out more hay and straw for newborn calves at their farm near Woodston in north central Kansas.
The storm made extra work, but Diane McReynolds said it would help their winter wheat, pastures and dried-up ponds.