Winter storm trips up holiday travelers
OMAHA - Holiday travelers battled slick, icy roads, along with scattered flight cancellations and delays, yesterday as a major winter storm began to spread across much of the nation’s midsection - and the worst of the weather was still expected to come.
The storm was likely to intensify by today, bringing heavy snow, sleet, and rain to a large swath of the Plains and the Midwest. A foot or 2 of snow was possible in some areas by Christmas Day.
“It’s an unusually large storm, even for the Plains,’’ said Scott Whitmore, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Topeka, Kan.
Parts of Nebraska were coated with ice up to a quarter of an inch thick, and a number of churches were canceling Christmas Eve services in anticipation of more ice and snow. But residents were still waiting for a blizzard.
Slippery roads were blamed for at least five deaths - three in accidents on Interstate 80 in Nebraska and two in a crash on I-70 in Kansas.
In Chicago, more than 200 flights at O’Hare International Airport were canceled, along with about 60 flights out of Midway International Airport, the city’s Aviation Department said.
Mollie Sheridan, a 30-year-old artist from Philadelphia, had planned to fly to Ohio to be with her family for Christmas. Instead she was trying to sleep on a row of seats at Midway after
“I’m not that frustrated,’’ Sheridan said. “I have a dad who loves me who’s coming to get me. It hasn’t spoiled my Christmas.’’
The storm forced the closure of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls warned of treacherous travel conditions through tomorrow night, calling the storm “life threatening.’’
Yesterday, winter storm warnings stretched from Colorado through the Dakotas and into Minnesota.
A tropical jet stream pumping in moisture from the storm’s south was likely to cause plenty of snow throughout the Plains and the Midwest, with the biggest accumulations expected from eastern Nebraska to the Upper Mississippi Valley. Freezing rain was possible across parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.
The winter blast followed a weekend storm that dropped record snowfall and interrupted holiday shopping and travel on the East Coast. Tens of thousands of customers in West Virginia and Virginia remained without power yesterday.
Holidays travelers and commuters were stranded in the Northeast yesterday after an electrical problem forced Amtrak to halt trains in and out of New York’s Penn Station. The outage affected service as far south as Washington and as far north as Boston. Power was restored after about three hours.