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2 dead as wind-whipped winter storm pounds Great Plains; stay off roads, authorities warn

A deadly snowstorm packing hurricane-force wind pummeled the Great Plains on Monday, the second bout of fierce winter weather there in less than a week. Authorities pleaded with people to stay off the roads.

Wind gusts of 75 mph were recorded at the airport in Amarillo, Texas, and up to a foot and a half of snow was on the ground — the most in at least 110 years. At least one city fire truck was stuck.

“This is a really nasty blizzard,” said Greg Postel, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel.

The storm was being blamed for at least two deaths: In the town of Woodward, Okla., heavy snow caused a roof to collapse, killing one person inside the home, Oklahoma Highway Patrol told NBC News. And in northwest Kansas, a 21-year-old man was killed when his SUV overturned on an icy patch of Interstate-70, according to Kansas Emergency Management officials.

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National Guard units set out to help drivers stranded along Interstate 40, but the state said that troopers couldn’t get to everyone because of the whiteout. The wind whipped the snow into 10-foot drifts.

Amarillo had 17 inches of snow on the ground at mid-afternoon, threatening its single-day record of 18.1 inches, set in 1934.

Authorities closed highways in the Oklahoma panhandle, which was bracing for more than a foot of snow. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University canceled afternoon classes.

In Kansas, which was expecting up to 2 feet of snow through Tuesday, Gov. Sam Brownback extended a state of emergency from last week.

“This storm has the potential to be more dangerous than last week’s storm,” he said. His advice to drivers: “Stay off the road unless it’s absolutely critical.” For those who had to drive, he suggested packing charged phones and emergency kits.

The storm last week dumped more than 14 inches of snow on Wichita, Kan., its second-highest total on record. Parts of Kansas got a foot and a half, and parts of Missouri more than a foot.

Joe Pajor, a public works official, told NBC affiliate KSN in Wichita that this storm would create driving conditions “that are basically unprecedented for the traveling public.”

The storm’s reach extended to the Southeast. The National Weather Service said it could spawn tornadoes Tuesday in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Florida Panhandle.

FedEx said the storm was causing delays for deliveries in 15 states, as far east as Pennsylvania and as far north as Minnesota.

The storm also threatened to dump 6 inches of snow on Chicago through Tuesday.

The same weather system blanketed Colorado on Sunday. About 200 flights were canceled at the airport in Denver, and Gov. John Hickenlooper told non-essential state workers to report two hours late Monday.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.