Thar She Blows! Bad Weather Big Picture
A vast, potent winter storm barreled across the nation's midsection Tuesday, depositing dangerous amounts of ice and snow before aiming for the winter-weary Northeast.
"Enough already," said Steve Huang, 37, a Chicago stock analyst, as heavy snow began to fall here in midafternoon, and strong winds sent it swirling across Michigan Avenue. "This feels like the worst winter ever."
Not quite, but before the snow ends in Chicago Wednesday afternoon, total accumulation might flirt with the city's snowiest storm ever: 23 inches that fell Jan. 26-27, 1967.
Thousands of airline flights were canceled as winter storm warnings were issued from southwestern New Mexico to northern Maine, a distance of more than 2,300 miles. Nationwide, 6,364 flights were canceled by midafternoon Tuesday, roughly 21% of all flights in, to and from the USA, said Mark Duell of FlightAware, a flight-tracking company.
He said if cancellations continue at that pace, records could be set because of the large number of cities — Dallas, Houston, New York, Boston "and everything in between."
Blizzard warnings were in effect in nine states, from Oklahoma to Ohio.
Meteorologist Mark Ressler of the Weather Channel said the system will move rapidly into Pennsylvania and parts of New England next. Severe thunderstorms that affected Louisiana and parts of Texas on Tuesday will shift into Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, he said.
It's unusual for a storm to affect such a broad swath of the country and so many big cities, Ressler said. The snowfall rate in some places was "incredibly heavy."
The Iowa Department of Transportation said most roadways in the state were partially or completely covered with ice and snow. Fatal wrecks were reported in Minnesota and Kansas.
"If you don't have to travel, don't do it. If you can stay home, do it," Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said. "You might get in. You won't get back."
Ice coated south-central Missouri and southern portions of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. In Indiana, 850 members of the National Guard were activated and 26 shelters prepared.
First Sgt. Dave Bursten of the Indiana State Police urged people to stay home.
"There's only so much man can do to control Mother Nature, and ultimately Mother Nature will always win," he said.
Power failures caused by icing are among the biggest concerns. The storm caused about 18,000 Indiana customers to lose power, but electricity was restored to all but about 8,500 customers, said Joe Wainscott, executive director of the state Department of Homeland Security.
Road crews were deployed while drivers were warned that they might not be able to keep up with snowfall rates of 2-3 inches per hour in some areas. Jorma Duran of the Missouri Department of Transportation said it takes 100 to 200 pounds of salt to cover one lane for 1 mile during an average winter storm — and more in an ice storm.