BOULDER, Colo., Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Heavy snow and high winds pounded the Midwest from Kansas to Michigan Thursday, with gusts topping 50 mph.
The storm forced highway closures and caused at least one death as a result of a 23-car pileup, officials said. Two others were killed in a wreck with a tractor-trailer in Wisconsin.
Thousands of customers in the Kansas City area were without power.
The season's first major winter storm prompted officials in Davenport, Iowa, to declare a snow emergency through 6 a.m. Friday, the Quad City Times reported. The Iowa National Guard was mobilized to assist with snow removal, The Des Moines Register said. More than 36,000 people in Iowa lost power.
Snow fell Thursday afternoon in eastern Iowa, Wisconsin, southeastern Minnesota and portions of Michigan at a rate of as much as an inch an hour in the heart of the winter storm, Accuweather.com reported. Mount Horeb, Wis., reported 11.4 inches of snow.
Gusts of more than 50 mph reduced visibility to less than 1/4 of a mile in some areas.
Wisconsin state troopers said the treacherous conditions were to blame for a crash that killed two people in Center Township. Jaime Paiz-Gutierrez, 41, lost control of his car on Highway 11, crossing the center line and striking an oncoming semi. He and his passenger, Guadalupe Ortiz, 45, were both killed, WISC-TV, Madison, Wis., said Thursday.
Boulder, Colo., received 3.7 inches by Wednesday and was expected to get more as another storm system is forecast to move through the area Monday and Tuesday, the Boulder Daily Camera reported. Snow totals in some areas of Boulder County reached 4 inches.
"There is a pretty good shot at a white Christmas," Boulder meteorologist Matt Kelsch said.
The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin's Lake Michigan shoreline. The weather service says snow accumulation of 12 inches is possible, along with 25- to 35-mph winds that could gust as high as 45 to 50 mph, CNN reported. Rain in Chicago was expected to turn to snow.
Officials closed a 156-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Denver and the Kansas state line Wednesday, though it was reopened by 7 p.m., CNN reported. Poor visibility in Lubbock, Texas, resulted in a 23-car pileup, killing one person and injuring 17 others.
Accuweather.com reported the winter storm is expected to move through Omaha, Green Bay, Wis., and Marquette, Mich., into Thursday night.