Hail started falling Friday evening on southeast Nebraska, southwest Iowa and northwest Missouri as a strong, wintry storm system moved into the area.
The system, expected to affect the area through most of the weekend, already has taken aim at Nebraska’s Panhandle.
Authorities closed about 180 miles of Interstate 80 in western Nebraska on Friday afternoon. The road was closed in both directions from North Platte to the Wyoming border. A number of state highways in the area also were closed and the State Patrol was urging drivers to stay off the roads if possible.
Closer to Nebraska City Friday afternoon, a tornado watch was issued for 23 counties in southwestern Iowa until 9 p.m., including Fremont, Mills, Montgomery and Page. The only counties in Nebraska under a watch are Nemaha and Richardson, in the state’s southeast corner. All of northwest Missouri was also included in the watch.
Hail — up to golf ball size — fell in parts of southwest Iowa and southeastern Nebraska as storms blew through. A wind gust of 62 MPH was registered at Nebraska City’s airport.
A rain and snow mix started in early afternoon in North Platte, where 8 inches of snow is predicted to fall overnight and into the morning.
Roads in North Platte and Ogallala are wet, said Chris Buttler, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Valley.
“Once the sun starts to go down, we are going to have some issues on the roads,” said Chris Buttler, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Valley.
Buttler said a blizzard warning isn’t too uncommon for the area, even in April
“But we are all getting pretty sick of winter,” he said.
Friday night into Saturday, blizzard conditions are expected to develop from central Nebraska through northwest Iowa, with 6 to 14 inches of snow possible, the weather service said.
Lighter amounts of snow are forecast for the Nebraska City area, where forecasters expect about an inch of snow to fall.
The weather service said:
- A blizzard warning is in effect until noon Saturday for the Nebraska Panhandle and the north-central and west-central parts of the state. Winds of up to 55 mph and 11-15 inches of snow are expected.
- A winter storm watch will be in effect from late Friday into Saturday night for parts of northeast and east-central Nebraska, including Tekamah, Grand Island, Hastings and Columbus, and for parts of western Iowa. Look for 40 mph winds, 2-4 inches of snow and difficult travel conditions.
- According to the National Weather Service Office in Valley, Lancaster, Cass, Gage, Sarpy and Douglas Counties could see up to two inches of snow and ice accumulations of a light glaze on Saturday. A winter weather advisory is in effect for the counties from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.