A strong snowstorm that cut visibility nearly to zero in some places as it rolled across the Plains on Saturday caused numerous vehicle pileups and forced authorities to close portions of several major highways.
Dozens of vehicles were involved in a pileup on Interstate 29 in western Missouri, authorities said. Sections of some Oklahoma highways were closed because of whiteout conditions.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol said preliminary reports indicated 20 to 40 vehicles, including three tractor-trailer rigs, were involved in the early afternoon chain-reaction wreck on Interstate 29 at St. Joseph.
Multiple ambulances were sent to the scene but there was no immediate indication how many people were injured or if there were any fatalities. Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph said it was treating several people from the accident though none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening.
The patrol closed about 100 miles of I-29 from Dearborn, which is between Kansas City and St. Joseph, to the Iowa state line. The storm blew locally heavy snow across Oklahoma, eastern Kansas and northwestern Missouri, plus parts of Nebraska and Iowa.
In Oklahoma, U.S. 412 near Mooreland was closed because 15 to 20 cars had slid off the road or had been involved in collisions, authorities said.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said a six-car collision on U.S. 64 in the state's northwest corner involved an ambulance that was carrying victims from the scene of another accident. Parts of that highway and others in the Panhandle were closed because of blowing snow and low visibility.
The Kansas Department of Transportation said a 40-mile stretch of I-70 west of Topeka was closed because of a weather-related 30-car pileup. It was not immediately clear how many people were injured or if there were any fatalities in either pileup.
By early afternoon, the storm had dropped 3 inches of snow in the St. Joseph area, said National Weather Service meteorologist Julie Adolphson. Accumulations of up to 7 inches were possible in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.
Wind was blowing at sustained speeds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 45 mph in Oklahoma, threatening to bring down tree limbs damaged during the severe ice storm early last week that blacked out hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses.
Farther west, Colorado roads remained icy in spots following a storm Friday. Eastbound I-70 was closed about 20 miles east of Denver for more than two hours after a wreck in which five people were injured.