US Midwest buckles under storm
Chicago - A colossal blizzard roaring across a third of the United States paralysed the country's heartland with ice and snow, shuttering airports and schools and leaving normally bustling downtowns deserted.
The monstrous storm billed as the worst in decades delivered knock-out after knock-out as it made its way from Texas to Maine, bringing Chicago and the rest of the Midwest to a halt and prompting a region-wide day off for snow.
"I'm usually sceptical about predictions of a big storm," 50-year-old law firm librarian Janet Smith said on Tuesday afternoon while waiting at a downtown Chicago train station.
"But I'm kind of excited. I wasn't around for the storm of '67, or the storm of '79, or the storm of '99. I've missed all the greats. I'm excited about experiencing it."
Cities across middle America shut down hours ahead of the snow. Scores of schools, colleges and government offices cancelled activities or decided not to open at all. Thousands of flights were cancelled across the nation.
For the first time in history, the state of Missouri shut down the major highway between St Louis and Kansas City due to a winter storm. The newspaper in Tulsa, Oklahoma, cancelled its print edition for the first time in more than a century.
Airport shut down
And in Chicago, the city shut down the landmark Lake Shore Drive along Lake Michigan for the first time in years. Crews were still trying to rescue some motorists on Wednesday morning who had been stuck for 12 hours.
And it wasn't over yet. Chicago expected 0.6m of snow and public schools were closed for the first time in 12 years.
Flying in and out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport - a major US hub - won't be possible at all until on Thursday. The decision by O'Hare-based airlines to cancel all their flights for a day and a half was certain to have ripple effects at other US airports, said transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman.
Further east, in New York state, Mike Schumaker was already into his fourth hour of what he predicted would be a 24-hour ploughing marathon as he cleared snow from a suburban Albany gas station on Wednesday morning.
"I figure I'll be going to about 1 or 2 in the morning. That's my guess," said the 42-year-old private contractor from Latham. "We still have snow from Christmas that hasn't melted."