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Storms create havoc for travelers across the Midwest

December 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

DES MOINES, IOWA — Snow and ice plastered a wide area of the Midwest on Saturday, disrupting airport and highway traffic and making travel treacherous.

The National Weather Service posted winter storm and ice warnings across parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, the eastern Dakotas, Illinois and northern Michigan, although some warnings were lifted by midday. Six to 16 inches of snow was forecast in parts of Minnesota.

Much of Iowa was hit by snow, sleet and freezing rain.

Hundreds of flights were canceled in Des Moines, Chicago and Milwaukee. Officials decided to close Des Moines International Airport for several hours after a United Airlines plane slid off a taxiway as it was heading to a runway for a flight to Chicago's O'Hare, said airport spokesman Roy Criss. He said none of the 44 passengers was injured and the airport reopened by mid-afternoon.

At Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wis., an incoming Mesa Airlines regional jet flying for United Express slid off the pavement after failing to make a turn onto a taxiway, but no injuries were reported among the 25 passengers, said United Airlines spokesman Jeff Vick.

Madison was expecting three inches of snow and overnight wind gusts of up to 30 mph, an outlook so bleak that even meteorologists were postponing their own events. The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences department postponed its annual Solstice Party, which was set for Saturday, until February.

"This is the most treacherous kind of weather that the weather can deliver," said department chairman Jonathan Martin.

The storm also complicated plans for some presidential hopefuls drumming up support for the Jan. 3 caucuses that kick off the nomination process.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney canceled three campaign stops Saturday in southern Iowa, and former President Clinton canceled a rally for his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, scheduled Saturday outside Des Moines.

Heavy ice accumulations on power lines blacked out more than 14,000 customers scattered throughout Iowa, said representatives of for Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy. Thousands more were without power near Galesburg, Ill., Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris said.

A man died when his jeep hit a semitrailer on a highway north of Madison, Wis., authorities said. Vehicles had been slowing after another semi tipped on its side as the driver tried to exit the highway. Numerous accidents were reported on Iowa highways, said Transportation Department spokeswoman Dena Gray-Fisher.

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