Huge storm blankets Midwest with snow

February 1, 2008 12:44:19 PM PST
Heavy, wet snow made for treacherous roads and delayed commutes Friday as a winter storm lumbered eastward after blanketing the nation's midsection. "If you don't have to be out here, don't," Ty Wilson, a very wet Chicago bicycle messenger, said as he stopped along a slushy street between deliveries.

Another storm system made roads impassible in parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Just more than 5 inches of snow was reported at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport by Friday morning. About 500 flights were canceled there.

In central Illinois, at least a foot of snow was reported in Springfield. But as the storm moved to the northeast, central Indiana was spared a similar fate, with Indianapolis getting little more than an inch of slush.

"The 6 to 8 inches (of snow) we were supposed to get ended up being 100 miles further north," said Logan Johnson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, to the east, a mix of snow, freezing rain and sleet coated trees, cars and roads across western New York and central Pennsylvania.

Ice and rain led to delays of up to 2½ hours at airports around New York City, including New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport.

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

The city had nearly 300 snow plows working on streets 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 in some locations, the National Weather Service said.

The St. Louis area received 8 inches of snow Friday, snarling travel and shutting down most schools.

Hundreds of schools in Michigan canceled classes and roads were snow covered and slick. The weather service said 1 to 5 inches had fallen in parts of southern and southeast Michigan by early Friday.

Authorities blamed the storm for two deaths in southern Illinois, where a man and woman were killed Thursday when their car slid into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer.

More snow continued to make travel difficult Friday in portions of the Pacific Northwest, already hard-hit earlier in the week.

In Washington state, a 70-mile stretch of Interstate 90 was closed because of the avalanche danger at the Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Range. Five feet of new snow has fallen on the pass in a weeklong series of snowstorms.

Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency Thursday for 15 counties, mostly in snowbound Eastern Washington.

Officials in Idaho's Kootenai County also declared a state of emergency Thursday as roofs collapsed, roads became impassable and senior citizens were stranded.

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

In Northern California, ski resorts atop the Donner Summit reported 12 to 14 inches of new snow by Friday morning.

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Associated Press writer John K. Wiley in Spokane, Wash., contributed to this report.


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