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Storm Socks Midwest, Cancels Flights, Closes Roads

December 12, 2010

By Sophia Tareen, The Associated Press

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CHICAGO - A powerful winter storm roared across the upper Midwest on Sunday with high winds and mounds of snow closing roads in several states and canceling more than 1,400 flights in Chicago.

At least one weather-related death was reported Sunday as the storm system that dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and caused the Metrodome's inflatable, Teflon roof to collapse moved east. The Minnesota Vikings-New York Giants game was pushed to Monday night at Detroit's Ford Field.

A blizzard warning was in effect Sunday for parts of eastern Iowa, southeastern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and northern Michigan, according to the National Weather Service. Surrounding areas, including Chicago, were under winter storm warnings. "It's going to be blustery," said Ben Deubelbeiss, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Romeoville, Ill.

The winter weather, with blowing snow that severely limited visibility, wreaked havoc on air and road travel. In the Chicago area, wind gusts of up to 50 mph, temperatures in the teens, wind chills well below zero were expected 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, Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride said. Both airports expected more cancellations and reported significant delays.

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 Sunday 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 Sunday 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 and Interstate 80 reopened.

Although roads were open in Wisconsin, 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 Sunday.

AAA-Michigan said it has been a busy day for its roadside assistance crews, with 850 calls from midnight through 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

"A lot of cars in ditches, spinouts, dead batteries," spokeswoman Nancy Cain said. "It's really the first big blast of winter weather statewide."

Travel conditions were hazardous in much of the region. Six people were injured Saturday when a van carrying 13 people hit a guardrail and overturned in Mecosta County, near Stanwood, Mich., in the north-central Lower Peninsula. Authorities said Sunday that weather played a role in the death of Douglas Munneke, 55, of St. Cloud, Minn. He died of a heart attack after collapsing while he was snow-blowing his driveway Saturday.

The weather was an unexpected burden for a Minnesota man who had pledged to camp out on the roof of a coffee shop to help his daughter's school raise money.

Hospital executive Robert Stevens donned four layers of long underwear, heavy boots and a down coat before embarking on his quest Friday night. He had vowed not to come down until he had raised $100,000, but he reconsidered about 3 p.m. Saturday after high winds shredded his tent canopy.

But Sunday morning, Stevens headed back up to brave the subzero wind-chills. He had only raised $54,000 and said if he didn't get to his goal the school would likely close.

"Mother Nature won out yesterday - but I'm looking for the win today," Stevens said.

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Associated Press writer Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls, S.D., David Goodman in Detroit, Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee and Patrick Condon in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Story Image: Heavy snow, gusty winds rage across the eastern Plains and Midwest this weekend. (AP Photos)

Story Image: A man digs out his car during a snowstorm in Minneapolis on Saturday, December 11, 2010. (Craig Lassig, AP)

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