Midwest Walloped by Big Winter Storm

Alex Chadwick speaks with Jason DeRose, reporting from Chicago about the winter storm that's struck the American Midwest. The huge storm system has paralyzed some regions with ice and snow, and is headed east.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Californians watch The Weather Channel on days like this with that smug satisfaction that so annoys the rest of the country because a lot of it is suffering bad weather. Large portions of the Plains states and the Midwest are recovering after being hit by the first blizzard of the season. The storm has dumped snow from the Texas Panhandle all the way to the Dakotas. In North Dakota, some Thanksgiving travelers who'd hoped to be home days ago are still stuck along Interstate 94 and 29. At least five people have been killed on slippery roads. The storm is now headed to the Great Lakes region, which includes Chicago, where NPR's Jason DeRose is standing by.

Jason, what areas have been hardest-hit so far?

JASON DeROSE reporting:

Well, as you mentioned, the Plains states have been hard-hit: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas and the Texas Panhandle. In eastern South Dakota, 50,000 customers were blacked out. That's a lot of the population of South Dakota.

CHADWICK: That's a lot.

DeROSE: Power lines are down elsewhere. Schools are closed throughout parts of the Great Plains states. Interstate 70 between Denver and the Kansas state line has finally reopened today. Authorities say it will be a while, though, before Interstate 94 and Interstate 29 are open. They were closed because of icy conditions and poor visibility.

CHADWICK: Is it early for a blizzard? Is this catching people off guard?

DeROSE: Well, we had some snow the day after Thanksgiving here in Chicago, but it was minimal. Blizzards we usually don't see in the Midwest until a bit later, say in December or in January, though in the upper Midwest, such as in Wisconsin or Minnesota, this time of year it's pretty common to have heavy snow. Still, people would've been ready, though, because they get ready early here in the Midwest, putting up their winter storm windows and readying their cars. In fact, you know, we've had temperatures here in Chicago in the 50s and 60s this past Sunday and yesterday. So a lot of people were prepping their houses and cars then.

CHADWICK: Getting ready for winter. Well, they should, because isn't this storm headed your way to the Great Lakes region? And you must be kind of getting ready for it.

DeROSE: Well, you know, Alex, we're used to snow here in the Midwest, just perhaps not quite this early. The real issue here in Chicago is probably going to be O'Hare International Airport. You know, since it's one of the busiest in the country, a blizzard can really gnarl up air traffic, even in parts of the country that aren't having snow at all, since O'Hare is a hub. It's a good thing this didn't happen here in Chicago the day before Thanksgiving or right after Thanksgiving. It would've been a real nightmare for holiday travelers.

CHADWICK: Yeah, it would have. You know, Jason, there's one other kind of weather event that we're watching. This isn't really an event; it's more like a date. Tomorrow is the end of hurricane season. So here we are, we're still actually technically in hurricane season, and there's a blizzard in the Midwest.

DeROSE: That's right. And there was a new hurricane, I heard.

CHADWICK: Oh, boy. Well, lucky...

DeROSE: Epsilon.

CHADWICK: Keep up with more weather news as we go along. NPR's Jason DeRose speaking with us from our Chicago bureau. Jason, thank you for being there, and bundle up.

DeROSE: You're welcome. Thanks.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. Warm tunes just ahead on DAY TO DAY.

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