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Snowstorm causes 100-car pileup near Fargo, N.D.

/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

A wintertime onslaught of snow, rain and bitter wind continued to wreak havoc into New Year's Eve day, pounding westerly states and causing a 100-car pileup in North Dakota.

Severe winds and heavy snowfall blanketed Minnesota and the Dakotas, snarling traffic and closing roads. The pileup, which closed Interstate 94 near Fargo, happened after two semi-trucks jackknifed Thursday night, North Dakota State Highway Patrol Capt. Eldon Mehor .

Visibility and road conditions were so bad, Highway Patrol was rescuing drivers by foot and snowmobile, according to KVLY-TV. Three people were brought to the hospital, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

Further west, Denver faced its heaviest snows of the season early Friday, while parts of Wyoming and New Mexico bundled up against stormy weather and frigid temperatures.

Phoenix braced for a subfreezing Friday morning, a rarity there. On Thursday, the storm dumped a snowy mix of precipitation on the edges of the desert city.

Officials closed a road into Yosemite National Park in California after a rock the size of a dump truck tumbled onto the road, and strong winds created snow dunes on rooftops, front yards and streets across mountainous areas of Arizona.

Snow and ice forced an hours-long closure of the two major thoroughfares in northern Arizona, stranding motorists south of Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.

Major highways were also shut down in parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Nevada.

Forecasters were predicting more of the same in eastern parts of Wyoming and New Mexico. And snow could fall at a rate close to an inch an hour in Denver, which usually has around 25 inches of snow by the New Year but had just 1.5 inches.

Up to a foot forecast for Colorado
The Denver and Colorado Springs areas could get up to a foot of snow as the storm lingers through Friday, and the eastern plains could see up to 7 inches, the National Weather Service said.

Meanwhile, a cold front was continuing its sweep across New Mexico with overnight snows in the east.

New Mexico State police Thursday were discouraging drivers from traveling east of Albuquerque. An 80 mile stretch of Interstate 40 from Moriarty to Santa Rosa was closed for about five hours but reopened before midnight. Still, a temporary shelter is in place in Moriarty for stranded travelers.

On Thursday, the Silverton Mountain resort in Colorado reported 22 inches of snow, but only about 120 people were on the mountain because officials closed highways leading to the ski area for avalanche control and because of adverse conditions, resort co-founder Jen Brill said.

R.A. Burrell, of Colorado Springs, left home around 3 a.m. to avoid getting stuck on the way to the extreme ski area and made it before the lift started running.

"I thought we'd really just come on a magical day, which is what it turned out to be," he said during a break from making turns. "We just got lucky."

United Airlines, the dominant carrier at Denver International Airport, canceled 32 United and United Express flights from Denver on Thursday, spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said.

Drivers in Arizona wanting to know how to get around the storms overwhelmed a state hotline that provides automated updates on road conditions.

Dorothy Brooks, of Dallas, was creeping along Interstate 40 at 20 mph on her way to Las Vegas, passing vehicles stuck on the side of the road, when she pulled into a Bellemont gas station to wait out the storm.

"It's devastating," she said, above the cry of a 9-month-old baby she was pushing through the aisles. "You can't call Mother Nature anyway. You never know when she's going to burst out."

Forecasters said strong winds in California were expected to die down by early Friday, allowing a cold air mass to create frost and freeze problems in the region.

The California Highway Patrol reported downed trees on various Los Angeles-area freeways and streets. One gust north of Los Angeles was clocked at 94 mph.

Residents in the Phoenix area couldn't believe what they were seeing when white stuff starting falling from the sky. The wintry mixture of snow and hail had the appearance of snowflakes.

"Believe it or not, but I am looking out my window in Scottsdale, Az & its SNOWING! Never thought I would see this!" former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner tweeted.

Inmates housed at the city's Tent City jail facility were being issued extra blankets and pink thermal underwear — part of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's odd method for punishing prisoners.

In the snow-laden Sierra Nevada, search teams found the body of a woman who disappeared while snowboarding at a Lake Tahoe-area resort, officials said. Icy roads led to a collision on U.S. 50 in Nevada, killing a 26-year-old woman.

A camping Boy Scout troop of seven boys and three adults had to be rescued after a snowstorm stranded them near Pocatello, Idaho.

Gordon Mason of Rockford, Ill., was taking it all in stride. The 62-year-old semi-truck driver was browsing through movies at a travel center in Arizona, grateful that something was open to occupy his time.

"The way the lot is, it's going to take a while to clear the trucks so the rest of us could get out," he said. "I'm not even going to try until tomorrow."