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By Elisha Fieldstadt

Blizzard and winter storm warnings extended from Minnesota through the Dakotas and down into Kansas on Thursday, wreaking havoc on the roads for commuters and holiday travelers.

Central South Dakota, eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota can expect more than a foot of snow to fall by Friday, at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour, according to the National Weather Service. Winds gusting up to 60 mph in parts of those states would make driving conditions even more treacherous.

The Minnesota State Patrol asked drivers to take it slow on slick roads, as they were already responding to crashes and spinouts. The agency said Thursday morning that 270 crashes had been reported across the state, 20 of which caused injuries, though none were fatal.

The state patrol reported that rain had started in parts of Minnesota, which could make "ice skating rinks" out of the frigid roads.

A travel alert was issued by the North Dakota Highway Patrol "due to reduced visibility and snow fog creating 'whiteout' conditions." Parts of the state had already gotten 11 inches of snow by Thursday afternoon.

Officials in Nebraska warned drivers of downed power lines and icy roads, and reported that vehicles were sliding off the highways. They urged people to stay home.

Meanwhile, to the east, flood watches were in effect from West Virginia down to the Gulf Coast, with some areas expected to get up to 6 inches of rain, according to the weather service. Three million people in the region were at risk of severe storm threat, and eastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi were under tornado watches.