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US Midwest snow storm leaves travellers scrambling


The storm contributed to traffic chaos
The storm contributed to traffic chaos

The Canadian Press

December 21, 2012 — The first widespread snowstorm of the season plodded across the Midwestern heartland on Thursday, as whiteout conditions sent drivers sliding over slick roads.

The snow is being blamed on several accidents
The snow is being blamed on several accidents

Some travellers were forced to scramble for alternate ways to get to their holiday destinations.

The storm led airlines to cancel about 1,000 flights ahead of the Christmas holiday relatively few compared to past big storms, though the number was climbing.

In Iowa, two people were killed and seven injured in a 25-vehicle pileup.

A chain reaction of crashes involving semitrailers and passenger cars closed down a section of the highway.

The storm, which dumped more than 48 cm in Wisconsin state capital, was part of a system that began in the west earlier in the week before trekking into the Midwest.

Most of the cancelled flights were at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway international airports.

Along with Thursday's fatal accident in Iowa, the storm was blamed for traffic deaths in Nebraska, Kansas and Wisconsin.

On the southern edge of the storm system, tornadoes destroyed several homes in Arkansas and peeled the roofs from buildings, toppled trucks and blew down oak trees and limbs Alabama.

Thousands of flights had to be cancelled
Thousands of flights had to be cancelled

On the southern edge of the storm system, tornadoes destroyed several homes in Arkansas and peeled the roofs from buildings, toppled trucks and blew down oak trees and limbs Alabama.

The heavy, wet snow made some streets in Des Moines nearly impossible to navigate in anything other than a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Even streets that had been plowed were snow-packed and slippery.

In Chicago, commuters began Thursday with heavy fog and cold, driving rain. By early evening, high winds and sleet that was expected to turn to snow were making visibility difficult on roadways. Airlines were waiving fees for customers impacted by the storm who wanted to change their flights. They were monitoring the storm throughout the night to determine if more cancellations would be necessary on Friday.

Daniel Baker, CEO of flight tracking service Flight Aware called it "a relatively minor event in the overall scheme of things." By comparison, airlines cancelled more than 13,000 flights over a two-day period during a February 2011 snowstorm that hit the Midwest, and more than 20,000 flights were cancelled during Superstorm Sandy.

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