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Deadly winter storm heads east after pummeling Midwest

December 21, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • Phillip Forney shovels snow and ice in downtown Columbus, Ind.
Phillip Forney shovels snow and ice in downtown Columbus, Ind. (Joe Harpring / The Republic )

The first major winter storm of the season continued to pound its way through the Midwest across the Great Lakes on Friday, creating travel chaos just in time for the holiday travel weekend.

More than 1,000 airline flights have been canceled in the past days and roads have been made hazardous by snow, ice and winds. At least eight people have died because of storm-related conditions.

The storm, working its way eastward, first made an impact in the Rockies and then plowed through the nation, dropping more than a foot of snow on Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Blizzard and winter storm warnings remain in effect through Friday night or Saturday for the Great Lakes and central Appalachians, where heavy snow will combine with strong winds to produce dangerous travel conditions. Meanwhile, low temperatures Friday night will drop into the single digits or slightly below zero for the north central U.S.,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The National Weather Service, part of NOAA, issued a high wind warning for New York and Long Island, forecasting gusts of up to 60 miles per hour --- similar to the type of conditions that have marked the storm through its progress across the nation. Winter storm warnings and advisories were issued for Pennsylvania, where snow was forecast to fall throughout the day.

Major airports in the metropolitan New York area were reporting delays of  up to three hours at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and La Guardia Airport in New York. Shorter delays were reported in Philadelphia and elsewhere in New York, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

More than 500 flights were canceled on Thursday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and at Midway International Airport. The pace of cancellations eased on Friday, but dozens of flights were dropped. Southwest Airlines, which canceled all of its flights out of its Midway hub after 4:30 p.m. Thursday, was running its full schedule Friday. United Airlines also planned to operate a full schedule.

The death toll continued to climb in the Midwest. At least two deaths were reported in a 25-vehicle pileup in Iowa when drivers were blinded by the driving snow, state police reported. The storm was blamed for traffic deaths in four other states: two each in Nebraska and Wisconsin, and one each in Kansas and Indiana.

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