The first major snowstorm of the season is sweeping across Kansas City on Thursday, shuttering schools and creating treacherous roadways.
Forecasters warned that heavy snowfall coupled with strong winds would create blizzard conditions for morning commuters from Kansas to Wisconsin.
All of the largest school districts in the Kansas City area canceled classes because of heavy overnight snow, as did many districts across Kansas and Missouri, where drivers were being told to stay off the roads starting Wednesday evening because of whiteout conditions.
KCTV5 meteorologist Tom Wachs said as of 10:50 a.m., Liberty and Olathe were reporting 1 to 3 inches of snow and St. Joe with 3 to 4 inches along with 54 mph wind gusts.
"We've seen reports of thundersnow across parts of the area. Thundersnow is rare, and when it happens it means that the snow is falling at 2 to 3 inches per hour," Wachs said.
As the snow continues to move east and weaken, Wachs said it will be just as cold and blustery Thursday afternoon with the sun coming out.
Wind chills will remain in the teens (if not single digits) throughout the afternoon.
Roads will likely remain a bit slick this afternoon, as road crews continue to tackle them.
"Latest model data takes the Christmas Day storm east of us, leaving us with just a few snow showers," Wachs said.
Kimberly Qualls, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Transportation, said that many roads are snow-packed and travel remains difficult, particularly in northeast Kansas.
She said the high winds were blowing snow back onto roads as soon as it was removed, causing several vehicles to slide off roads.
Snow blown by strong winds closed parts of Interstate 29 and made driving hazardous throughout northwest Missouri.
Missouri transportation officials closed sections of Interstate 29 near St. Joseph and Kansas City International Airport early Thursday because of traffic accidents.
The slippery conditions caused a brief problem for a FedEx Corp. jet at the Kansas City International Airport. Airport spokesman Joe McBride says the jet landed safely but was not able to turn at the end of runway, although it didn't go off the pavement.
The plane was towed to a gate. It did not cause any flight delays for the public.
The weather has prompted Delta and United Airlines to allow many affected travelers to change schedules without incurring fees.
Kansas City Power & Light reported about 32,000 scattered power outages in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas, and schools throughout the region closed.
The heaviest snow is expected across a swath extending from northwest Missouri into Milwaukee, Chicago and Michigan, with predictions of as much as a foot of snow in some areas, according to the National Weather Service.
Before the storm, several cities in the Midwest had broken records for the number of consecutive days without measurable snow.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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