Icy Storm Buries Midwest, Whips Into New England As a massive winter storm cranked up, airlines canceled more than 6,000 flights, schools closed and highways were shut down. The storm system could be the biggest many cities have seen in years.
NPR logo Icy Storm Buries Midwest, Whips Into New England

Icy Storm Buries Midwest, Whips Into New England

A car that plowed into a snow bank is towed Tuesday in Hartford, Conn. The latest storm is expected to add up to 6 more inches of snow and ice to an area already buried by multiple storms last month. Jessica Hill/AP Photo hide caption

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Jessica Hill/AP Photo

A car that plowed into a snow bank is towed Tuesday in Hartford, Conn. The latest storm is expected to add up to 6 more inches of snow and ice to an area already buried by multiple storms last month.

Jessica Hill/AP Photo

A monster storm pounded the nation's midsection Tuesday and threatened a knockout blow to New England, already buried in snow.

Freezing rain and sleet pelted states from Texas through Ohio. Snow was piling up from Kansas to the Great Lakes states and all the way to Connecticut. By midafternoon, sections of Interstate 70 in Missouri were closed because of whiteout conditions, high winds and plummeting temperatures.

Both of Chicago's airports shut down late in the afternoon — and two big airlines, American and United, said they won't resume flights there until Thursday. American alone canceled 1,900 flights across the country — almost half its daily schedule. Flight tracking service FlightAware logged more than 6,000 cancellations in all.

The giant storm reached into New England by afternoon. In Hartford, Conn., as much as 6 inches of snow was added to several feet that accumulated in January. Forecasts for icy rain and sleet worry officials, who expect damage to already overburdened roofs and the possibility of electric lines falling, leading to power outages.

Farther south, an ice storm and 50-mph winds briefly closed Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and threw a wrench into preparations for Sunday's Super Bowl. But the roof of Cowboys Stadium was closed, and Tuesday's "media day" went on as scheduled. Outside, howling winds sent temperatures into the teens, although sunny skies and 50-degree temperatures are predicted for game day.

In Oklahoma, the Tulsa World newspaper announced that it wouldn't print a paper edition on Wednesday — the first time in the paper's nearly 106-year history an edition hasn't been published.

For now, forecasters say the storm is blitzing a third of the country, with 2 feet of snow in some places, up to an inch of ice plus snow in others. Making matters worse are the brutal cold and winds gusting to near 60 mph.

"What really gives us nightmares is the prospect of widespread power outages," said Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. "It's cross-our-fingers time."

As the storm began its trek across the Midwest, school districts, universities and legislatures closed, and residents rushed to gather supplies, anticipating they might have to dig out or hunker down.

"I've never seen a prediction of what have you — rain, snow, ice, whatever — where people reacted so quickly to it," said Jack Runyon, co-owner of Runyon Equipment Rental in Carmel, Ind., where customers snapped up all of the store's small emergency generators.

Cities including St. Louis, Kansas City, Mo., and Milwaukee could be hardest hit, with expected snowfalls of up to 2 feet and drifts of 5 to 10 feet. Even hardy Chicago could be in for its third-worst blizzard since record keeping began, with forecasts calling for up to 20 inches of snow in the city and waves whipping off Lake Michigan.

If the forecasts for Chicago hold true, this could be the city's third-biggest snowstorm, overshadowed only by the 21.6 inches in 1999 and the mother of all Chicago snowstorms, the 23 inches of snow that fell in 1967.

Officials in Chicago — which is holding elections in three weeks — were throwing every resource they have at the storm, mindful of the fact that then-Mayor Michael Bilandic lost his re-election bid in 1979 partly because of his administration's poor response to a similar storm.

"We feel confident that we have enough equipment on the street: 274 trucks, 120 garbage trucks with plows on them," said Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Thomas Byrne. He said plows will keep thoroughfares open even with snow predicted to fall at a rate of 3 inches an hour.

The National Weather Service suggested that any Green Bay Packers fans planning to drive from Wisconsin to Dallas for the Super Bowl avoid leaving before Wednesday afternoon, when authorities hope to have cleaned up the worst of the mess along the route.

"As long as I have 18 hours, I'm going to get there," said 68-year-old Don Zuidmulder, who planned to fly out Thursday. "I'll crawl if I have to."

But the weather was good news for skiers and ski resort operators in Colorado.

Despite a high of 7 degrees in ASPEN, Colo., skiers and snowboarders rejoiced with 9 inches of fresh snow at some area resorts.

Jeff Hanle, a spokesman for the Aspen Skiing Company, says the cold didn't stop skiers.

"Just dress a little warmer, put on an extra layer, cover up your face first thing in the morning, and go out and enjoy it," he said. "It is a winter sport and they design clothing that makes it easy to stay warm even on a day like today."

With reporting from Dan Verbeck in Kansas City, Marci Krivonen Aspen, Colo., NPR's Wade Goodwyn in Dallas and David Schaper in Chicago. Material from The Associated Press also was used in this story.