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Upper Midwest Snow Storm Promises Messy, Dangerous Commute

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Heavy snow, especially toward the south suburbs made for slow traffic along Diffley Road in Eagan, Minn., Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)
Heavy snow, especially toward the south suburbs made for slow traffic along Diffley Road in Eagan, Minn., Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Glen Stubbe)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A major winter storm turned Midwest commutes into treacherous challenges Friday before the system petered out over the Great Lakes.

At least four deaths were linked to the storm, including three from traffic accidents, brought on by gusty winds and snow-covered roadways.

Places in Kansas and Missouri saw a foot or more of snow on Thursday, and spent Friday digging out and clearing its miles of roadways. Impressive totals included 18 inches in the southern Kansas town of Zenda; 17 inches in Hays, Kan.; 13 ½ inches in northeast Missouri and south-central Nebraska; and 12 inches in parts of Kansas City, Mo.

The system lost strength as it moved north and east Friday. Illinois' totals ranged from 7.5 inches in west-central Rushville to a mix of sleet and freezing rain in the St. Louis, Mo., suburbs. The town of Truman in southern Minnesota received 8 inches.

Eulas Henderson was in no hurry Friday morning while clearing still-falling snow from the sidewalk outside his Detroit home. Even as he shoveled, Henderson's work was being covered.

"It's not frustrating. I enjoy it. It's the normal thing to do in the winter time," said Henderson, a 56-year-old security guard.

The storm also brought fresh snow for the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, which is expected to draw a record field of more than 13,000 competitors and another 15,000 spectators to the northern Wisconsin city of Cable.

"It's snowing real hard and I'm seeing all kinds of cars in the ditch," said Leslie Maclin, a skier from Evanston, Ill. But she was expecting good conditions for the race Saturday.

The Minnesota State Patrol blamed the snow for over 500 accidents Friday. One driver was killed when she lost control, came to a stop in oncoming traffic and was broadsided by another vehicle in a St. Paul suburb.

A 12-year-old boy died from injuries suffered in a collision on an icy highway in northern Nebraska on Thursday. A western Iowa woman was run over Thursday by her car, which had gotten stuck on her steep, slippery driveway. And a 70-year-old woman from Wichita, Kan., died after her car slid and collided with a train.

In Ohio, which was clipped by the storm, a United plane slid off a slick runway at the Cleveland airport onto a grassy area, but no injuries were reported.

In some locations, the storm didn't live up to the hype. At the Pilot Flying J station near Interstate 29 in southwest Iowa, shift manager Kelly Malone said Friday his company had taken precautions for employees by reserving rooms at the Super 8 Motel.

"We were prepared for the worst, but it didn't happen that bad," he said. Iowa's snow totals topped out at 9.7 inches near Sioux City.

"To me it was just an average storm, but I'm a person who drives through anything," he said.

___

Associated Press reporters Corey Williams in Detroit; Kyle Potter in St. Paul, Minn.; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo.; Roxana Hegeman in Wichita, Kan.; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee; Nelson Lampe in Omaha, Neb.; and Tom Sheeran in Cleveland contributed to this story.

About 270 flights in and out of Chicago's two airports were canceled Friday morning. Arrival delays of up to 90 minutes were reported at O'Hare airport. The Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., airports both reopened Friday morning but had numerous cancellations and delays.

The snow began falling in Detroit just in time for the morning rush, turning streets and freeways into a mess.

Head bowed and arms crossed, 45-year-old Patrice Denham pushed forward into Detroit's swirling snow. She had just walked several blocks to her townhouse complex's leasing office for a new mailbox key and was heading back home.

"You live in the city of Detroit and you do what you have to do," Denham said referring to the rough winter weather that regularly affects the city. "If it's going to be cold, it's going to be cold. But this has been only an average winter."

Where the storm struck hardest Wednesday and Thursday, impressive snow totals rolled in – 17 inches in Hays, Kan.; 13 inches in northern Oklahoma; 13 1/2 inches in northeast Missouri and south-central Nebraska; and 12 inches in parts of Kansas City, Mo.

As it moved farther north and east overnight and into Friday, the system lost strength. Illinois' totals ranged from 7.5 inches in the west-central town of Rushville to a mix of sleet and freezing rain in the St. Louis, Mo., suburbs. Dodge County in southeastern Minnesota received 8 inches by Friday morning, and Trempealeau County of western Wisconsin had 7 inches.

Students across a large swath of Kansas spent a second day at home as crews continue to excavate residential neighborhoods. Schools also were closed Friday in parts of Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The Kansas Legislature was back in session Friday after canceling its meetings Thursday, but lawmakers' schedule was light.

Travel continued to be the major issue Friday.

A United plane slid off a slick runway at the Cleveland airport onto a grassy area Friday morning. No injuries were reported.

The Minnesota State Patrol blamed the snow for over 200 accidents during the Friday morning commute. One driver was killed when a vehicle lost control, slid into oncoming traffic and was broadsided on a highway in the St. Paul suburb of Eagan.

A death in western Iowa was also linked to the storm when a woman was run over Thursday by her car, which had gotten stuck on her steep, slippery driveway.

Also in Iowa, a bus carrying members of a college softball team was involved in a multi-vehicle crash Friday morning. It closed part of Interstate 80 east of Des Moines, and no serious injuries were reported.

In some locations, the storm didn't live up to the hype. At the Pilot Flying J station near Interstate 29 in southwest Iowa, shift manager Kelly Malone said Friday his company had taken precautions by reserving seven rooms for employees at the nearby Super 8 Motel.

"We were prepared for the worst, but it didn't happen that bad," he said. Iowa's snow totals topped out at 9.7 inches near Sioux City.

"To me it was just an average storm, but I'm a person who drives through anything," he said.

___

Associated Press reporters Corey Williams in Detroit; Jim Suhr in St. Louis, Mo.; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo.; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee; Nelson Lampe in Omaha, Neb.; and Tom Sheeran in Cleveland contributed to this story.

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