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Whiteout conditions make travel treacherous; some highways closed

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Dangerously strong wind gusts pushed into Minnesota Thursday prompting the National Weather Service to issue blizzard warnings in the western half of the state.

Temperatures fell throughout the day in most places, allowing the storm system to produce varying amounts of snow around the state – but the big story is blowing snow, which is making travel difficult in parts of northwest, west-central and southwest Minnesota.

In southwest Minnesota, I-90 west of Luverne is also shut down, according to MnDOT. Just across the border in South Dakota, a major car pileup occurred in blizzard conditions along I-90 just west of Sioux Falls.

Police are advising no unnecessary travel until the wind as strong as 70 mph subsides, the Argus Leader reports.

A portion of eastbound I-94 was closed for a couple hours Thursday due to at least three jackknifed semis. It was reopened around 1:30 p.m. U.S. Highway 2 from near East Grand Forks, N.D. to Crookston; and Minnesota Highway 200 between the North Dakota state line and U.S. 75 near Halstad remain closed Thursday afternoon.

Post by Minnesota Department of Transportation.

On Thursday afternoon, UPS announced "unavoidable" service delays in Minnesota and North Dakota due to dangerous travel conditions.

Fargo-Moorhead schools were among those closed or delayed Thursday. Residents there were bracing for the "hardest-blowing blast of cold air" so far this winter, Forum Communications reports. Whiteout conditions were being reported in the Red River Valley early Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

The NWS had these dire words of warning about a "life-threatening blizzard" for the Red River Valley: "Potentially damaging winds may cause localized power outages. Travel today in open country will be impossible at times. Make plans to postpone or delay any travel today."

MPR's Paul Huttner gives that language some context: "That’s apocalyptic ‘enhanced’ wording from the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks on Thursday’s blizzard. You don’t hear that often even in the Upper Midwest, but this one looks like the real deal folks."

In the Twin Cities, residents can expect less than an inch of snow, but high winds and blowing snow through the day Thursday, with gusts up to 40 mph, making travel "nasty" in some places, KARE 11 reports. Wind chills will dip to minus 13 degrees as the temperature plummets: from 34 degrees at 5 a.m., to 8 degrees by 5 p.m.

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