Up to 18 inches of wind-driven snow fell around Lake Erie today, blocking highways with drifts five feet high in parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania, while subzero cold moved into Indiana and Illinois, chasing hundreds into Chicago emergency shelters.
The snow and cold were so severe that they interfered with Vice President George Bush's travel plans in Michigan.
"People are stranded everywhere. Cars and trucks are off the road, including on Interstate 90. There's cars all over the place. That's the sum and substance of it," said Pennsylvania State Police dispatcher Lee Parsons at Erie.
Low temperature records were tied or broken in nearly a dozen cities, including Huron, S.D., where the low of 30 degrees below zero lopped five degrees off a 101-year-old record. The wind chill at Duluth, Minn., was 60 below zero.
50 Inches Since Friday
In northern New York state, Jefferson County at the eastern end of Lake Ontario had 50 inches of snow since Friday.
Up to eight inches of snow around Lake Michigan and wind gusting to 30 m.p.h. forced Vice President Bush to cancel a visit to Grand Haven, Mich., where he planned to inspect lake shore erosion.
"There's absolutely no reason to take a vice president out in this kind of weather," said Grand Haven Mayor Marge Boon. "I don't blame him one bit."
Wind gusting as high as 46 m.p.h. in northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York state piled snowdrifts three to five feet high.
Almost All Roads Impassable
Erie got eight inches of snow overnight for a total of up to two feet on the ground, and Parsons said almost all roads in Erie County were impassable, closing all schools and many businesses.
"We've been buried," forecaster Dave Bell said. "I opened my garage doors this morning, and it was over my knees. And I'm 6-foot-5 1/2."
During the night, the snow was blown so fiercely that truck drivers reported that they could not find exit ramps on Interstates 90 and 79. Several rigs and at least one state snowplow were stranded.
East of Erie, New York state south of Buffalo got up to 18 inches of snow during the night, and about 20 school systems were closed.
Sunshine in Buffalo
But Buffalo itself, known for heavy accumulations of "lake effect" snow fed by moisture from Lake Erie, had sunshine today, after 26 inches of snow in five days.
Up to eight inches of snow fell in Michigan around the shore of Lake Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie had a record low of 20 below.