Snowstorm blankets Midwest, heads east

February 1, 2008 7:50:18 AM PST
Heavy, wet snow made for treacherous roads and delayed commutes Friday as a huge winter storm that stretched from Texas to the Great Lakes blanketed Illinois and the rest of the nation's midsection Friday. At least 5 inches of snow was reported at Chicago's Midway Airport by early Friday. More than 600 flights were canceled Thursday at O'Hare International Airport, where hundreds of stranded travelers spent the night awaiting planes from other cities also affected by the storm. Low visibility continued to be a problem.

Between 8 and 12 inches was forecast for the Chicago area and 6 to 8 inches was expected on the ground by noon in central Illinois. But the National Weather Service began canceling snow advisories in the state by midmorning as the storm headed for the Northeast.

Big rigs and compact cars alike crawled along Chicago area highways -- including Interstate 80 southwest of the city, where at least one semitrailer sat on its side in a ditch and numerous others stopped along the roadside.

"With what's going to be coming down at the rate it'll be coming down, all the roads are going to be snow packed and snow covered," National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Merzlock said.

The city of Chicago had nearly 300 snow plows working early Friday -- along with more than 100 garbage trucks equipped with plows. City and state officials acknowledged the heavy precipitation made it difficult to keep pace.

The snow fell at the rate of an inch an hour at times Thursday evening, the National Weather Service at Lincoln reported. School districts across the state told students to stay home Friday.

Elsewhere, the storm system that was supposed to dump 6 to 8 inches of snow on the Indianapolis area instead left about an inch of slush. A low pressure system that was supposed to cross the state near the Ohio River shifted north and shoved the major snowfall away from central Indiana.

More than 6 inches of snow fell in parts of northwest Indiana and 41/2 inches had piled up in Lafayette by Friday morning, with flakes still falling.

Hundreds of schools in Michigan canceled classes and roads were snow covered and slick as a result of the storm. The weather service said 1 to 5 inches had fallen in parts of southern and southeast Michigan by 8 a.m.

In other states, the storm has been blamed for at least four deaths: three in Texas and one in Oklahoma.

Billowing snow in the Texas Panhandle caused a 40-car pileup on Interstate 40 on Thursday that killed at least person. Three other deaths were blamed on the storm, two in Texas and one in Oklahoma.

The storm pounded areas of the Midwest still rebounding from storms earlier in the week that spawned a mix of snow, brutal cold, tornadoes and hail.

The system was expected to move into the Northeast later Friday, bringing with it a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.

Severe weather wasn't expected to let up anytime soon in Idaho, which has been besieged by snow in recent days.

National Weather Service meteorologist John Livingston said a snowstorm was expected to blow through on Saturday and Sunday, with cold predicted to stretch at least through the middle of next week.

Officials in Kootenai County in northern Idaho declared a state of emergency Thursday as roofs collapsed, roads became impassable and senior citizens were stranded because of the repeated snowstorms.

"You can only stack the snow so high, and we're running out of places to put it," said Rick Carrie, county commissioner.

- Headlines at a glance


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