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Winter storm Olive – live: Historic snow and ice threatens Minnesota, Dakotas and Wisconsin

Snow begins to fall around the Cathedral of Saint Paul, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. A monster winter storm took aim at the Upper Midwest on Tuesday, threatening to bring blizzard conditions, bitterly cold temperatures and 2 feet of snow in a three-day onslaught that could affect more than 40 million Americans. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP) (AP)

Half a dozen states were largely shut down on Wednesday as a historic winter storm bearing heavy snowfall, powerful winds and bitterly cold temperatures descended on the US.

Schools were closed in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin while public officials warned people to keep off the roads due to dangerous whiteout conditions from Winter Storm Olive.

“Difficult to impossible travel across wide swaths of the US,” was the National Weather Service warning on Wednesday.

In the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, a first round of wintry conditions dropped three to five inches of snow. The flurries will pick up in intensity by Wednesday afternoon, according to a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service.

A slew of weather warnings, watches and advisories were issued in nearly two dozen states with forecasts sounding the alarm on severe impacts from coast to coast.

Flight woes were also mounting. Total delays in and out of the US topped 1,300 flights by late Wednesday morning, according to the travel site FlightAware, with more than 1,100 cancellations.

Follow the latest updates below

Key points so far

  • Half a dozen states were largely shut down on Wednesday

  • Schools closed in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin

  • Weather warnings and advisories issued in two dozen states by the National Weather Service

‘An axis of heavy snow'

18:51 , Louise Boyle

The arrival of a large arctic air mass from Canada was delivering an “axis of heavy snow” to many parts of the northern US, the National Weather Service (NWS) reported on Wednesday.

The snow will continue to move east across the Northern Plains into the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes today.

More than a foot of snowfall is likely from South Dakota heading east throught southern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, NWS reported.

Southern Minnesota could see two feet of snow, forecasters said, amid dangerous blizzard conditions on roads and possible power outages.

Snow will start making an appearance in the Northeast and New England late on Wednesday into Thursday.

An estimated four to eight inches of snow is forecast from Upstate New York into central New England. Over a foot is possible at higher elevations in New York’s Adirondacks and the Green and White Mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont.

More than 1,000 flights cancelled over historic winter storm - here’s what you need to know

18:33 , Louise Boyle

More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled in the United States as a severe winter storm brings heavy snowfall and dangerous whiteout conditions to parts of the country.

The storm, which prompted the National Weather Service to issue weather warnings in more than two dozen states, began Tuesday and is set to worsen Wednesday as it stretches from coast to coast.

The winter storm has already impacted travel, with flight tracking site FlightAware reporting that more than 1,100 flights were already cancelled in the US Wednesday morning. An additional 1,382 were delayed as of 10.54am ET.

Chelsea Ritschel reports.

How can you find out whether your flight is cancelled and what are your rights?

Winter storm in pictures: Snow plows on the move

18:09 , Louise Boyle

Snow plows hit the interstate highway I-35 as Minnesota prepares for a winter storm, early on Wednesday, in Minneapolis. Brutal winter weather bringing snow, dangerous gusts of wind and bitter cold settled over much of the northern US on Wednesday (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP) (AP)
Snow plows hit the interstate highway I-35 as Minnesota prepares for a winter storm, early on Wednesday, in Minneapolis. Brutal winter weather bringing snow, dangerous gusts of wind and bitter cold settled over much of the northern US on Wednesday (David Joles/Star Tribune via AP) (AP)

Three killed in avalanche in Cascade Mountains as heavy snow blocks rescuers

17:49 , Louise Boyle

Heavy snowfall and high winds on Tuesday kept searchers away from a remote, jagged peak in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, where an avalanche killed three climbers from the northeastern US over the weekend.

The slide struck Sunday as a group of six climbers were ascending a steep, snow-packed gulley on the 8,705-foot Colchuck Peak, about 70 miles east of Seattle in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Chelan County sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Reinfeld said Tuesday.

Four of the climbers were swept about 500 feet down the slope. One of the four survived, a 56-year-old man from New York, and despite some injuries he was able to confirm that the other three were killed before working his way back to their base camp at Colchuck Lake, Mr Reinfeld said.

Three killed in avalanche in Cascade Mountains as heavy snow blocks body recovery

AP

North of the border, more winter storm warnings

17:31 , Louise Boyle

North of the border, Canadians were also receiving alerts due to the severe winter weather conditions caused by the Arctic blast.

Toronto was under a winter storm warning on Wednesday with up to 12 inches of snow possible in the Ontario city by Thursday night, CTV reported.

Winter weather makes travel hazardous in Arizona

17:10 , Louise Boyle

Arizonans were being strongly advised against getting on the road on Wednesday by the state’s department of transport as they shared pictures of whiteout conditions caused by the storm.

Crews were removing downed trees from the Arizona 260, a scenic highway running east–west through the middle of the state.

“If you do decide to travel, be prepared for lengthy delays due to impassable roads,” the transport department tweeted.

Watch: Weather forecast as coast-to-coast storm hits the US

16:52 , Louise Boyle

Businesses, schools shuttered and roads closed

16:33 , Louise Boyle

Many schools throughout the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin were called off for Wednesday, ahead of the storm, The Associated Press reports.

Offices closed, and so did the Minnesota Legislature. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem shut down state executive branch offices in several parts of the state, and employees were working remotely.

In Wyoming, virtually every road was impacted, and many were closed. Officials warned they may stay that way for days.

Associated Press

While the Midwest shivers, record-breaking heat in Florida

16:18 , Louise Boyle

While temperatures plummeted in the northern half of the United States on Wednesday further south, daily high temperature records were being matched or broken.

In Marathon, Florida, the daily high temperature record was tied for the second day in a row as the town hit 86F on Tuesday.

St Paul sees dangerous whiteout conditions

16:07 , Louise Boyle

Snow begins to fall around the Cathedral of Saint Paul, on Tuesday, February 21  at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. A monster winter storm took aim at the Upper Midwest on Tuesday (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP) (AP)
Snow begins to fall around the Cathedral of Saint Paul, on Tuesday, February 21 at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. A monster winter storm took aim at the Upper Midwest on Tuesday (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP) (AP)

Flight cancellations pile up at US airports

15:53 , Louise Boyle

Travel woes were beginning to mount up at US airports on Wednesday morning as the severe weather conditions took hold.

More than 1,000 flights had been cancelled in the US and another 1,000 or so delayed, according to FlightAware.

The worst affected airports were in Minneapolis-St Paul, Denver and Detroit.

Twin cities to get slammed by historic storm

15:37 , Louise Boyle

In the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, the first round of wintry conditions dropped three to five inches of snow across the area. The flurries will pick up in intensity by Wednesday afternoon, NWS reported.

The February record of 13.8 inches of snow from a single storm in Minneapolis “is likely to be smashed,” reported AccuWeather meteorologist Matt Benz.

California to get rare blizzard

15:33 , Louise Boyle

In California, a rare blizzard warning was issued for mountains in Los Angeles County and Ventura County from early on Friday morning until Saturday afternoon.

In the meantime, California can expect yet more rainfall after being deluged by a wave of atmospheric rivers at the beginning of the year.

Moderate rainfall, but heavy in some spots, and thunderstorms are forecast in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday before moving south and settling over California on Thursday.