Storm Shuts Down Roads, Delays Hundreds of Driversby Jana Ritter - Published: 2/03/2016
The Midwest has been hit with another major snowstorm, delaying drivers in southern Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Michigan and South Dakota.
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Even before portions of the interstates began to close down on Tuesday, truck drivers and motorists around Sioux Falls played it safe and stayed off the roads finding refuge wherever space allowed. By Tuesday night, a truck stop near the I-29 and I-90 interchange had big rigs packed like sardines. Scott VanBrunt was among the many truck drivers holed up at the Flying J and as someone who has been driving for more than a decade he knows the risks of trying the road in blizzard like conditions. "The thing weighs up to 80,000 pounds at times and it's hard to stop and when conditions get like this it's even harder,” he said. "Then factor in 45 mile per hour winds. If you're not careful a gust of wind can push you right off into the ditch." There were many truck drivers who shared VanBrunt’s sense of playing it safe and stayed off the roads, including Thomas Marcy who was on his way to Kansas City. "With the snow blowing and the wind and with not a lot of weight in my trailer, I don't really want to drive to far because it can blow you sideways," said Marcy. “I just figured if I got down further south that the roads would be worse and everybody would be piled into the truck stop and not find places to park."
The storm continued to force road closures all the way through central and northeast Nebraska and on Wednesday, officials temporarily closed a major stretch of Interstate 80 from Lincoln to North Platte and then North Platte to Ogallala, meaning that drivers were forced off nearly 275 miles of the state's major east-west highway. The storm dumped 10 to 18 inches of snow along the Interstate and the whiteout conditions made it even worse, preventing crews from clearing the roads.“It was impossible for people to see, so it was not safe for anyone to be out on the road, including our folks,” said Jeni Lautenschlager of the Department of Roads. A number of vehicles also got stuck and were left along the Interstate as well, including hundreds of semis lined up along I-80 eastbound between exit 177 and 179, and others along an access road and U.S. Highway 83. At approximately 2 p.m. central time, the conditions finally let up enough to re-open the roads.