SIDNEY - Two major roads in the southern Nebraska Panhandle closed at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday night as a major winter storm slammed the area.

Cheyenne County Sheriff Adam Frerichs says the Nebraska Department of Transportation advised both lanes of Interstate 80 and Highway 30 are closed from Cheyenne, Wyo. to Kearney, Neb.

"The Nebraska Department of Transportation has put out that at midnight tonight (Tuesday), they're going to be closing eastbound and westbound Interstate 80 and Highway 30," Frerichs said. "That closure is going to extend from the Wyoming line clear to North Platte in anticipation of this snow."

As of 3 a.m. U.S. Highway 138, between Colorado state line and U.S. 30 in Nebraska was the only other road closed in the panhandle. However, the Nebraska Department of Transportation reported roads across the Panhandle were completely covered in snow.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, eight roads were closed as of early Wednesday morning, because of the weather. 

  • I-76 both directions from Sterling to Nebraska
  • US-385 both directions from Julesburg to Holyoke
  • US-138 both directions from Sterling to Nebraska 
  • US-6 both directions from Sterling to Nebraska
  • CO 59 both directions from I-76 to Haxtun
  • CO-52 both directions from New Raymer to Fort Morgan
  • CO-23 both directions from US-385 to Nebraska
  • CO-14 both directions from Ault to Sterling 

Frerichs anticipates more road closures, but hopes they'll reopen by Wednesday afternoon. However, he says roads won't reopen until the weather relents and snowplows are able to clear them. 

A winter storm warning is in effect until 5 p.m. Wednesday for the majority of the panhandle, northeast Colorado, and Laramie County in southeast Wyoming. According to the National Weather Service, the highest confidence in significant totals (around a foot) was in the southern panhandle and far southeast Wyoming. Locally higher amounts were possible. 

Frerichs says it's never a good idea to trust Google Maps to find alternative routes when roads across the area are closed because of weather. 

"Google maps will show you the alternate routes that they show are open, which will be county roads, but they are not open," Frerichs said. "Most generally, those alternate routes are in worse condition than the roads that are already closed."

The weather service says travel became very difficult. Patchy blowing snow significantly reduced visibility. The hazardous conditions impacted the Wednesday morning and evening commutes.

Frerichs says travelers who go around barricades on closed roads will be stopped and fined. 

"One of the things I heard this last snow storm was 'I know you're saying the roads are closed, but I'm seeing traffic on it,'" Frerichs said. "Just because you see traffic does not mean that it's open. It just means folks have decided to ignore the barricades and drive around them. They run the possibility of getting ticketed for it."