THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Winter weather disrupts travel in Plains and East

By Timberly Ross
Associated Press / December 27, 2009

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OMAHA - Drifting snow and cold rain that have plagued much of the country for days stranded drivers and airline passengers yesterday trying to get home after Christmas.

Storms from Texas to the Upper Midwest that dumped 23.9 inches of snow in Grand Forks, N.D., and 18 inches near Norfolk, Neb., began subsiding, but blowing and drifting snow hampered visibility in many areas.

Warmer temperatures and rains in the East began melting and washing away last week’s record-setting snowfalls, threatening the region with flooding.

In Chicago, one of the nation’s busiest travel hubs, snow and ice along with rain on the East Coast canceled or delayed more than 50 flights.

Flights also were delayed at the three major airports in the New York area, which was getting rain and patchy fog. Most delays there were weather-related but some were worsened by stricter security precautions after an airplane bombing attempt in Detroit, said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area’s airports.

Shannon Fullmer drove two hours from his home in Freeport, Ill., to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport yesterday to pick up his 12-year-old son. But the flight from New Jersey was delayed more than three hours.

The 38-year-old waited in a long line to get through security so that he could wait by the gate where his son’s plane was expected to arrive about 7:30 p.m.

Seventeen-year-old Daina Mathew of Chicago planned to fly from Chicago to Tampa, through Atlanta, but her flight was canceled. She waited in a long line yesterday afternoon for Delta to rebook her flight so she could get to a youth conference that starts this morning.

Transportation officials closed a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Goodland, Kan., and Burlington, Colo. Officials also have closed interstate highways in Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Wyoming, but some reopened as the storm began to abate.

In South Dakota, state troopers assisted 182 people who were stranded in their vehicles or needed help getting through snowy roads, Colonel Dan Mosteller said.

Hundreds of customers remained without power for a third day in southeastern Nebraska and south-central South Dakota. Mark Becker of the Nebraska Public Power District said high winds could cause additional power failures during the weekend.

South Dakota officials reported several roof collapses from the weight of the snow, including a livestock barn near Baltic, where at least 25 cattle were trapped and some of them killed.

Meanwhile, parts of the East began preparations for possible flooding as rain or freezing rain fell and temperatures rose, helping to melt snow in areas where as much as 2 feet fell last weekend.

The National Weather Service posted a freezing rain advisory through the afternoon yesterday for parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

As temperatures rose, forecasters expected the precipitation to change to rain throughout most of the region.

In New Jersey, rain began falling Christmas night and was expected to continue through this morning.