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Storm pummels Upper Midwest, Northern Plains with heavy snow, wind; travelers urged to stay off roads

Andy King / AP

Snow-covered trees are seen outside the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome before an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Updated at 10:11 p.m. ET: A potent winter storm pounded the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains on Sunday with heavy snow and strong winds, making traveling treacherous and prompting airlines to cancel scores of flights.

The heaviest snowfall was expected from eastern South Dakota through southern Minnesota. Forecasters said up to 16 inches was possible in the hardest-hit areas, including up to a foot in and around Minneapolis.

A record snowfall of 10.2 inches was set at Twin Cities, MN on Sunday. The old record of 7.4 inches was set in 1961. 

The snow, coupled with winds gusting as high as 40 mph, could produce whiteout conditions “making travel nearly impossible,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.

Minnesota State Police said more than 300 car crashes were reported from 9:30 p.m. Saturday to noon Sunday, none of them fatal.

NBC's meteorologist Dylan Dreyer reports.

And it wasn’t just the snow that was a threat. The weather service said temperatures were expected to plummet behind the system to well below zero over western Minnesota, with wind chill readings as low as 20 to 30 below.

“Travel will be very difficult and stranded motorists risk getting frostbite or hypothermia due to the frigid wind chill late this evening and tonight,” the weather service said.

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More than 150 flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were canceled due to the storm, airport spokesman Pat Hogan told The Associated Press.

 Delta Air Lines said snow and icing conditions prompted it to cancel about 90 flights on Sunday.

The southern branch of the storm was expected to dump heavy snow in the Central to Southern Rockies, according to The Weather Channel’s Tom Niziol. “As the system continues south, snow will also spread southward across the mountains of New Mexico from Taos through Sante Fe where over a foot of snow is likely for this area,” he said.

Snow, strong winds and cold air were also expected to hit the Great Lakes region late Sunday night into Monday.

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