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Large storm hits Dakotas, heads toward Pittsburgh area

| Monday, March 4, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

MINNEAPOLIS — A late-season snowstorm that blanketed parts of the Dakotas on Monday was threatening to do the same to cities from Minneapolis to Chicago, which were bracing for as much as 10 inches of powder.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for a long swath stretching across the Upper Midwest from North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, then southeastward into western and southern Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa, northern Illinois, northern Indiana and into western and central Ohio.

“There's quite a variance (in precipitation) depending on where you are, but overall, it's a pretty large storm system,” said Dave Kellenbenz, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, N.D.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for the Pittsburgh region with 3 to 5 inches of snow forecast from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 7 p.m. Wednesday.

A mixture of rain and snow is expected to start falling Tuesday afternoon. Snow will intensify Tuesday night and early Wednesday, causing hazardous driving conditions, forecasters say. The forecast covers Pittsburgh and neighborhoods around Beaver Falls, Washington and Waynesburg.

Butler and Kittanning can expect less snow and Uniontown and Greensburg can expect more, forecasters say.

A winter storm warning has been issued for the same period in the Laurel and South Central mountains, where 6 to 12 inches of snow are in the forecast.

North Dakota took the brunt of the storm early Monday. In the northeast part of the state, Devils Lake had 11 inches of snow by midmorning, and a foot of snow fell in Sarles, about 60 miles to the north. In southeastern North Dakota and parts of eastern South Dakota, freezing rain that coated roads was more of a problem, but there were no immediate reports of major accidents.

No travel was advised in several North Dakota counties, while many schools started classes late or canceled them for the day, as did a handful in Minnesota.

Morning commuters in the Twin Cities area got a foretaste of the storm as they were greeted with up to an inch of snow. While rush-hour traffic slowed on many major metro highways, few accidents were reported.

The relative lack of problems prompted Lt. Eric Roseke, spokesman for the Minnesota State Patrol, to drop his plan to tweet accident totals, as he customarily does in major snowstorms.

Few delays were reported at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Morning snowfall totals reached 4 inches in Vesta, Wanamingo and a few other parts of southern Minnesota, but only 1.4 inches in Minneapolis. Still, the weather service said the snowfall was expected to intensify in the afternoon and evening.

More than 10 inches of snow was possible from northwestern Minnesota down into southwestern Wisconsin, including the Twin Cities, by Tuesday evening, according to the weather service.

As the storm moves east, Milwaukee and other areas in southeastern Wisconsin could get as much as 6 to 10 inches of snow on Tuesday. The Chicago area and other parts of northern Illinois were forecast to get 7 to 10 inches by Tuesday night.

The weather service warned that the greatest impact in the Chicago area would be felt during the Tuesday evening rush hour, and that travel through Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports was likely to be significantly affected Tuesday.

More than 50 vehicles have been caught up in crashes on Interstate 70 as heavy snow and wind move through the Colorado mountains.

Lake Dillon Fire Rescue said one accident Monday on westbound I-70 at Silverthorne involved 25 vehicles and sent three people to a hospital. Rescue officials say another accident on eastbound I-70 near Frisco involved 29 vehicles.

No serious injuries were reported. The area is about 70 miles west of Denver.

The adverse conditions temporarily closed westbound I-70 from Georgetown to Silverthorne, eastbound I-70 from Frisco to Silverthorne, and eastbound I-70 at Vail Pass. Westbound I-70 also was closed briefly at Floyd Hill because of accidents.

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