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A frigid storm moving through the Great Plains on Thursday forced school closures, caused travel headaches and put farmers and ranchers on edge.

Winter storm warnings and watches stretched from Wyoming and Montana through western Nebraska and into the Dakotas and Minnesota.

By 9 a.m., a foot of snow was on the ground near Crawford in the Nebraska Panhandle. There were reports of 8 inches in Chadron, 6 inches at Fort Robinson and 5 inches in Mitchell.

Snowfall was reported on the Interstate 80 corridor as far east as Lexington at 6 p.m. Little to no accumulation is expected as the snow moves into central Nebraska.

Farther east, any precipitation that persists is likely to be in the form of rain.

The Lincoln Airport received nearly 1 inch of rain Thursday from showers and thunderstorms. Some parts of the Omaha area saw rainfall totals surpass 2½ inches.

A large section of Nebraska, including the Lincoln area, is in a freeze warning, with temperatures possibly dipping to 29 by Saturday morning.

Elsewhere, people were shoveling snow instead of raking fall leaves.

"The ground is warm underneath, so soon as you scoop it the sidewalks are clear," said Drew Petersen, who owns a drugstore in Chadron.

His out-of-town employees made it to work, he said, but they reported that roads were snow-covered and slushy.

Several state highways in western and northwestern Nebraska were reported to be snow and ice covered.

Dozens of school districts canceled classes or started late in South Dakota and western Nebraska, including Chadron State College.

North Dakota Agricultural Commissioner Doug Goehring said the snow on top of a wet autumn was causing "a great deal of anxiety" for farmers and ranchers.

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In Fargo, the homecoming parade was canceled a day ahead of time at North Dakota State University, where its top-ranked Football Championship Subdivision team was set to play Saturday inside the warm confines of the Fargodome.

Snow fell in Colorado's mountains through Thursday afternoon, which was a welcome sight for skiers and snowboarders waiting for resorts to open for the season. It turned into an ugly commute for drivers in Denver, where about 100 crashes were reported during rush hour and where police warned people on Twitter to "keep your wits about you."

Temperatures that reached the upper 70s in Denver on Wednesday afternoon had plummeted into the 20s on Thursday.

Winter storms arriving just three weeks into fall aren't unusual, but they can blow into howling blizzards. National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Hintz recalled an October 2013 storm in which hundreds of cattle perished. Snow reached 55 inches deep in the South Dakota community of Lead.

The storm left 32,000 customers without power in Washington state.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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