Storm buries Midwest, crippling roads, airports

In Northwest, it’s rain, floods and mudslides

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By Sophia Tareen
Associated Press / December 13, 2010

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CHICAGO — A powerful winter storm roared across the upper Midwest yesterday, dumping up to 2 feet of snow on parts of the region and collapsing the inflatable roof of the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium. At least four deaths were attributed to the storm.

Blizzard conditions and deep snow closed roads in several states and canceled more than 1,400 flights in Chicago.

The Minnesota Vikings-New York Giants game was pushed to tonight at Detroit’s Ford Field after the inflatable, Teflon-coated roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis collapsed.

A blizzard warning was in effect yesterday in eastern Iowa, southeastern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and northern Michigan, the National Weather Service said. Surrounding areas, including Chicago, were under storm warnings.

The winter weather, with blowing snow that severely limited visibility, caused havoc with air and road travel. In the Chicago area, wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour, temperatures in the teens, and wind chills well below zero were expected yesterday, along with up to 8 inches of snow.

More than 1,200 flights were canceled at O’Hare International Airport, and more than 250 were canceled at Midway International Airport, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. Both airports expected more cancellations and reported significant delays.

A vehicle lost control on an ice-covered road and struck a tree in southeastern Wisconsin on yesterday, killing 21-year-old Alejandria Abaunza of Chicago and injuring two passengers.

In western Wisconsin, a 79-year-old man using a snowblower at the end of his driveway was killed when a plow truck backed into him. The St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department said Clifford Larson of Woodville died at the scene.

Weather also played a role in the death of 55-year-old Douglas Munneke of St. Cloud, Minn., authorities said yesterday. He died of a heart attack after collapsing while he was snow-blowing his driveway Saturday.

In Indianapolis, police said a man fatally stabbed his wife, then died four blocks from his home yesterday morning when his vehicle hit a tree after he lost control on a slippery road. Police did not immediately release the names of the couple.

Major highways in several states were closed due to poor driving conditions and accidents.

Illinois State Police closed a section of Interstate 80 in the north-central part of the state yesterday after a multiple-car pileup west of Peru. An injury report wasn’t immediately available.

Interstate 90 from Albert Lea, Minn., to Exit 410 in South Dakota reopened yesterday afternoon after being closed Saturday because blowing snow reduced visibility. Minnesota state highways also reopened, although transportation officials warned that many were still snow-compacted, icy, and, in numerous cases, down to a single lane.

In Iowa, Interstate 29 from the state line to Sioux Falls, S.D., remained closed, although other portions of it reopened.

Roads were open in Wisconsin, but state officials urged drivers to stay home because blowing snow severely limited visibility. Tod Pritchard, a spokesman for Wisconsin Emergency Management, said travel was expected to become even more difficult in the afternoon because temperatures were falling and at a certain point, road salt would no longer be effective.

“We’re really urging everyone to stay off the roads today and stay hunkered down at home,’’ Pritchard said.

The storm had already dropped up to 18 inches of snow in parts of northern and central Wisconsin, he said, and light snow continued yesterday.

In the Pacific Northwest, record rainfall triggered mudslides and threatened to cause severe flooding of some western Washington rivers yesterday.

Although the rain had eased in much of southwest Washington and northwest Oregon, including Portland, downpours continued in Seattle and north of the city, swelling rivers and threatening some small towns. The worst of the flood danger was expected to be over by early today.

Still, flood watches or warnings remained in effect for the region, and forecasters said storms could dump 6 inches or more of rain in the Cascade Range and Olympic Mountains.

“We’re looking at the wettest storm system we’ve had for in almost two years,’’ said National Weather Service meteorologist Kirby Cook in Seattle.

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