Winter weather blasts nation from end to end

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - December 20, 2008 Iowa public safety officials urged motorists not to travel as heavy snow began to fall in the morning. The state expected winds up to 35 miles per hour and wind chills of minus 25 just two days after being slammed with sleet, ice and snow.

Washington state braced for hurricane-force winds as a storm blew in from the Pacific. The temperature dipped to minus 18 Saturday in Spokane, which expected up to 6 inches of snow on top of the 25 that has fallen in the past three days, said Johnny Burg, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

In the Northeast, the aftermath of snow that fell Friday continued to snarl air traffic. And residents who still lacked power after an ice storm last week grew frustrated as officials warned that the storm battering the Midwest would blow in Sunday, the official first day of winter.

But the wintry conditions weren't unwelcome everywhere. Megan Zarbano, manager of Kratz Hardware in Valley City, N.D., noted that the snow was helping to clear inventory from years of mild winters. "We haven't had a blizzard-type storm in almost 10 years," she said. "A good storm really shakes people up; they freak out and realize they're not prepared for winter."

North Dakota's snowfall total for December nearly matched the 19.3 inches that fell all last winter, said meteorologist Joshua Scheck at the National Weather Service office in Bismarck.

"And it's not even the first day of winter yet," he said Saturday.

The cold was the major concern in Illinois, where the Weather Service canceled a storm watch in the north but warned that freezing temperatures could cause flooding from ice jams on rivers near the Quad Cities and Rockford.

Meteorologists also said the weekend's temperatures, expected to hit minus 5 by late Sunday with wind gusts of 30 mph, could again damage power lines serving those plunged into darkness by ice earlier in the week.

More than 80,000 customers in northern Indiana still had no power Saturday after Thursday night's ice storm. And in New Hampshire, more than 20,000 homes and businesses awaited restoration of power after an ice storm last week but feared the worst as the next storm approached.

"The utilities have made significant progress in restoring power in what is an unprecedented outage," New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said Saturday. "However, I continue to hear frustration from the local communities regarding communication with the utilities, and I share their frustration."

Sunday's storm could bring more power failures to southern New Hampshire, which was expected to get 10 to 16 inches of snow, forecasters said.

Boston's Logan International Airport reported about 60 canceled flights and about 215 delays Saturday as effects lingered from a storm the day before. In the New York City area, some arrivals were three hours late to Newark airport, and arrival delays at Kennedy Airport averaged 90 minutes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Blizzard warnings were posted for parts of Washington as high winds, snow and freezing rain began coating the state Saturday. Western Washington, including the Seattle area, could see wind gusts as high as 90 mph, meteorologist Burg said.

"The storm has arrived," he said.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jim Cour in Seattle, Michael Tarm in Chicago, David Tirrell-Wysocki in Concord, N.H., and David B. Caruso in New York.

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