Elementary school students, some escorted by parents, cross a snowy street en route to school as a blizzard dropped snow over Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday.(Photo: Brennan Linsley AP)
A major snowstorm that was sweeping across the Midwest and beyond,
left at least seven people dead, clogged highways and forced hundreds of
flight delays and cancellations at airports already bracing for the
The storm was blamed for deaths in at least five states, with parts of Iowa and Wisconsin hit with more than a foot of snow.
Utah, a woman died trying to walk for help after her car became stuck
in the blizzard. Storm-related traffic deaths also were reported in
Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin activated National Guard troops to help rescue stranded drivers.
warnings were in effect in Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois,
according to the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel reported
that parts of 17 states are under winter weather advisories -- as far
west as Washington state and as far east as Maine.
brought much-needed precipitation for drought-plagued regions but was
bad news for holiday travelers. Most of the nation's big airlines
responded to the storm's threat by enacting flexible rebooking policies
for passengers scheduled to fly into the storm's path.
led airlines to cancel about 1,000 flights ahead of the Christmas
holiday - relatively few compared to past big storms, though the number
More than 600 flights were canceled at Chicago's two
airports, O'Hare and Midway. O'Hare is a major hub for both United and
American, meaning the disruption could ripple out and affect fliers at
MORE: Storm snarls flights in Chicago, Midwest
Airlines, which canceled all of its flights out of its Midway hub after
4:30 p.m. Thursday, was anticipating normal operations Friday morning
United Airlines also planned to operate a full
schedule, though spokeswomen for both airlines cautioned travelers to
check their flight status before heading to the airport.
American Airlines cancelled flights scheduled to depart after 8 p.m. CT on Thursday.
snowstorm walloped Iowa, where almost a foot of snow has fallen in Des
Moines. State police said a 25-vehicle pileup killed one person, and
across Iowa 30,900 customers were without power Thursday, including more
than 25,000 in the Des Moines area.
The storm dropped as much as
13 inches of snow on portions of central Iowa, paralyzed travel, knocked
out power to scores of people and closed schools, government offices
and businesses across the state.
"It's just awful out there," Capt. Mike Winter of the Iowa State Patrol said. "People need to just stay home."
storm made travel difficult from Kansas to Wisconsin, forcing road
closures, including a 120-mile stretch of Interstate 35 from Ames, Iowa
through Albert Lea, Minnesota.
Most major roads across Iowa remained closed either by official order or impassible due to snow and ice buildup late Thursday.
Iowa State Patrol said at least 88 crashes occurred on highways and
interstate systems Wednesday night through Thursday afternoon. There
were also at least 164 emergency calls from the public and 161 motorist
On the southern edge of the storm system, tornadoes
destroyed several homes in Arkansas and peeled the roofs from buildings,
toppled trucks and blew down oak trees and limbs Alabama.
southeastern Wisconsin, where a blizzard warning was in effect,
sheriff's officials said slick conditions led to at least two fatalities
late Wednesday when a driver lost control of his car in Rock County,
about 90 miles northwest of Chicago.
The weather service was
forecasting "thundersnow" in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas, where
snow could fall at the rate of 2-3 inches an hour.
Scott Walker issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency,
which put the state emergency government, National Guard, State Patrol
and other agencies on high alert.
At least two people in Nebraska
died in crashes blamed on poor driving conditions, the State Patrol
said. In many areas, drivers were being told to stay off the roads
because of whiteout conditions. Most of I-80 in the state was closed.
Nebraska's biggest school districts canceled classes, as did many
districts across the region.
In Utah, Washington County sheriff's
detective Nate Abbott says the woman and a man were driving when their
car got stuck in rural Washington County on Tuesday night during the
storm that hit the Rocky Mountain region.
He says the pair started
walking for help, but the woman couldn't go any farther and sought
shelter while the man continued on. Search-and-rescue teams later found
Although the Plains and Midwest could do without the travel headaches, precipitation should be welcome.
than 93% of the high Plains region and 54% of the Midwest are enduring
drought conditions, according to Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor, a
federal website that tracks drought.
Out west, the leading edge of
a powerful storm system arrived in Washington, Oregon and Northern
California. Rain is expected across Northern California from late
Thursday through the weekend, with heavy snow possible in the Sierra
Nevada range as the system moves east.
Four to seven feet of snow
is forecast to fall above 7,000 feet, prompting the U.S. Forest Service
to issue an avalanche warning for Mount Shasta.