By LISA M. HOFFMANN
IRON MOUNTAIN - A winter storm warning remains in effect for Dickinson County until midnight with snow totals up to 10 inches.
Dave Petrovich, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Marquette, said six to 10 inches of snow will fall in Dickinson County today through midnight with the greatest amount of snow east of a line from Iron Mountain to Ralph.
Four to seven inches of snow is predicted in Iron County through midnight. A winter weather advisory for snow and blowing snow remains in effect for that county.
"As winds swing around to the north this afternoon to evening, winds gusts could be 30 to 35 mph, so there will be areas of blowing snow adding to travel difficulties," Petrovich said.
A winter storm warning for heavy snow and blowing snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Significant amounts of snow, along with widespread blowing snow, will make travel dangerous.
Snow began falling around 5 a.m. today and by 7 a.m. weather observers reported 1.1 inches of snowfall in Norway and a trace of snowfall in Stambaugh.
Heavier snow was starting to move in during the morning commute, with two inches of snow by 9 a.m. today in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area.
Hundreds of area schools from Madison, Wis., to the Upper Peninsula closed today. All schools in the area canceled classes today. Sporting events and musical concerts were also canceled.
Local law enforcement agencies reported slippery roads and a couple of accidents during the morning commute.
The National Weather Service reports a low pressure system centered near St. Louis is moving northeastward into Lower Michigan by tonight and is bringing widespread moderate to heavy snowfall to Upper Michigan.
Blowing snow will be a significant hazard late this afternoon through Friday, especially near Lake Superior in the eastern Upper Peninsula.
The severe winter weather is expected to subside after midnight tonight inland along the Wisconsin border, but continue through Friday morning over the rest of the U.P.
The combination of snow and blowing snow will result in very difficult driving conditions with reduced visibilities and snow-covered roadways, officials said.
Motorists are reminded to slow down and drive safe.
Travel will likely remain hazardous due to blowing and drifting snow tonight.
Petrovich said there is a 50 percent of chance of isolated snow showers on Friday afternoon for Dickinson and Iron County.
"There will be patchy areas of blowing snow and winds will be northwest 15 to 25 mph," he said.
Elsewhere, Forecasters warned that heavy snow coupled with strong winds could create blizzard conditions from Kansas to Wisconsin - and guaranteed a white Christmas in some places - after the storm blanketed the Rocky Mountains earlier in the week.
The storm dropped nearly a foot of snow in Des Moines, but the storm wasn't as dangerous as earlier feared because everyone had good warning of the approaching havoc, said Kevin Skow, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the city. But wind might become a concern, he warned.
"It's starting to taper off," Skow said of the snow early Thursday. "It's soon going to become less of a snow event and more of a wind event."
The airport at Creston, Iowa, recorded the highest winds, with a gust of 53 mph. Skow said wind gusts would grow stronger later Thursday, creating whiteout conditions, before dying down by the evening.
Meteorologist Scott Dergan said the snow cover would drag temperatures much lower in Nebraska and Iowa.
"We're talking single digits," Dergan said. "We may even see some sub-zero temperatures in Nebraska. This cold weather will stick around for several days, maybe until the day after Christmas. So we're definitely going to have a white Christmas."
On the southern edge of the storm system, high winds damaged homes and downed trees in central Arkansas, the weather service said. A powerful storm peeled the roofs off buildings and toppled trucks in Mobile, Ala., but injured no one. Tornado warnings remained in effect in parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama early Thursday.
Iowa native Laurie Harry said the weather probably wouldn't stop her from starting up her car Thursday morning.
"If I need to get into work, I'll be here," said Harry, a manager at a Casey's General Store in the western Iowa town of Atlantic. "We've had snow before. Iowans know what to expect. We're used to it."
Forecasters said the heaviest snow could be expected across a swath extending from northwestern Missouri into Milwaukee, Chicago and Michigan, with predictions of as much as a foot of snow in some areas. Before the storm, several cities in the Midwest had broken records for the number of consecutive days without measurable snow.
The weather service warned of poor visibility due to driving snow in much of the region and warned drivers to stay off roads in some areas. Transportation officials shut down parts of Interstate 29 in Missouri early Thursday, and Interstate 80 in Nebraska remained closed due to blowing snow.
"Just north of Interstate 80 is where the heaviest band of snow set up," Dergan said. "We're just seeing a few flurries this morning, but because of the wind, travel is pretty treacherous, especially into Iowa, as the storm moves east."
In southeastern Wisconsin, where a blizzard warning was in effect and winds of up to 45 mph were expected to create whiteout conditions, sheriff's officials said slick conditions led to at least two fatalities late Wednesday when a driver lost control of his car in Rock County, about 90 miles northwest of Chicago. In southeastern Utah, a woman who tried to walk for help after her car became stuck in snow died Tuesday night. Search and rescue crews on snowmobiles found her buried in the snow just a few miles from her car.
Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is email@example.com.