Monster winter storm takes aim at US

2011-02-01 11:01
Columbia - Another monster storm took aim at the US on Monday, threatening to lay a potentially deadly path of heavy snow and ice from the Midwest to the Northeast, followed by a wave of bitter, bone-rattling cold that could affect tens of millions of people.

Cities including St Louis, Kansas City and Milwaukee could be hardest hit, with expected midweek snowfalls of up to 0.6m and drifts piled up to 3m. Even hardy Chicago could be in for its third-worst blizzard since record-keeping began.

"I wouldn't want to be on the road in open areas tomorrow night," WGN forecaster Tom Skilling said. "I don't think I'd want to be driving in the city either. The fact is people die in these things."

Warmer areas were not safe, either. The system could spawn tornadoes in the South.

While record snowfalls have pounded the Northeast in one of that region's most brutal winters, the Midwest has been comparatively unscathed, until now.

As the first flakes fell, transportation officials readied street-clearing equipment, and some airlines encouraged travellers to rebook flights leaving from Chicago.

State of emergency

A blizzard watch was in effect on Tuesday and Wednesday for southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northwest Indiana. Winds could reach up to 96km/h in open areas and near Lake Michigan.

In St Louis and much of Missouri, residents braced for a particularly hazardous mix: Up to 3cm of ice, followed by up to 10cm of sleet, then perhaps 15cm of snow or more. Farther south in Columbia, Missouri, forecasters predicted between 30cm and 40cm of snow.

The forecast prompted Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to declare a state of emergency and activate 600 members of the National Guard.

In Chicago, forecasters predicted 51cm of snow. If that holds true, it would be the city's third-biggest snowstorm, overshadowed only by the 55cm in 1999 and the mother of all Chicago snowstorms, the 58cm of snow that fell in 1967.

Forty-three winter storms have produced 25cm or more in Chicago since record-keeping began in 1886.

Even when the snow stops falling, the temperature will keep dropping.

Bitterly cold temperatures were forecast in the wake of the storm, with wind chills as cold as -40°F possible in parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and other areas.

On Monday, freezing drizzle coated roadways across the Plains region. A school bus slid off the road in a Kansas City, Missouri school district, slightly injuring two students.

A Wisconsin state trooper was struck and seriously hurt while directing traffic around another accident. In Minnesota, the state patrol reported more than 200 crashes statewide, including one that was fatal.


- AP
Read more on:    us  |  weather
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