DENVER, Feb. 24 -- A large, fast-moving snowstorm that closed sections of major highways in the Plains on Saturday was blamed for seven traffic deaths, while strong winds in Arkansas cut a five-mile-long swath of damage, destroying buildings and leaving several people injured.
The storms in the Plains knocked out power to more than 145,000 customers and dumped more than a foot of snow on the Upper Midwest. The seven deaths all occurred on slippery Wisconsin roads.
The vast storm system also spread rain and thunderstorms across parts of Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. At least 27 people were injured in southern Arkansas, and some residents in Dumas, Ark., were unaccounted for after winds, and possibly tornadoes, blew through.
Interstate 70, a major cross-country route, was closed for about 400 miles, from just east of Denver to Salina, Kan., because of blowing snow and slippery pavement, Colorado and Kansas highway officials said.
About 35 vehicles collided in a pileup in whiteout conditions Saturday morning on an icy section of I-70 west of the highway closure. No major injuries were reported.
The weather service reported wind gusts of 68 mph in the Denver area. In Kansas, winds whipped about 3 inches of snowfall into 7-foot drifts.
The weather service posted blizzard and winter storm warnings for parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, northern Illinois and Wisconsin.
Between 15 inches to 18 inches of snow had fallen between Winona, Minn., and La Crosse, Wis., by Saturday evening, the National Weather Service reported.
Winds reaching 60 mph helped fuel dozens of grass fires across Texas, destroying three homes near Midland and forcing evacuations at Fort Hood, authorities said. No injuries were reported.
Airlines canceled 230 arrivals and departures at Chicago's O'Hare International and 40 at Midway in anticipation of snow, sleet and freezing rain, said Wendy Abrams, Chicago's aviation department spokeswoman.