Blizzards, ice storms wreak havoc across northern plains

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Travel conditions remain hazardous across much of the northern Great Plains as a winter storm continues to sweep across the region.

The combination of freezing rain, snow and high winds that forced the shutdown Sunday of vast stretches of highways in the Dakotas was forecast to continue into Monday morning.

The storm has also caused widespread power outages in the Dakotas, Nebraska and western Iowa.

As of 1 a.m. Monday, the South Dakota Rural Electric Association was reporting 10,231 "member-consumer-owners" were without power. In Nebraska, high winds were cited for hundreds of power outages in central and eastern portions of the state.

The weather service office in Bismarck, North Dakota, predicted snow accumulations of 8 to 15 inches in western parts of the state and thunderstorms in the central region.

The National Weather Service says winds will gust over 60 mph in southwestern Minnesota, while 50 mph gusts will be common over the rest of southern Minnesota into west-central Wisconsin. Gusts up to 66 mph were recorded overnight in Redwood Falls in southwestern Minnesota, and 50 mph in Bloomington in the Twin Cities area.

No travel is advised in far northwestern Minnesota.

The heavy rain on Christmas contributed to the wettest year on record in the Twin Cities, surpassing a mark that had stood for over a century. The weather service says nearly an inch of rain Sunday boosted total precipitation for the year to 40.27 inches, breaking the old record of 40.15 inches set in 1911.