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Winter slam

A storm brings whiteout snow and high winds to central and eastern states

By Michael Tarm

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 2:09 a.m. HST, Feb 2, 2011

CHICAGO » A winter weather colossus roared into the nation's heartland yesterday, laying down a paralyzing punch of dangerous ice and whiteout snow that served notice from Texas to Maine that the storm billed as the worst in decades could live up to the hype.

Ice-covered streets were deserted in Super Bowl host city Dallas. Whiteouts shut down Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla. And more was on the way. Chicago expected 2 feet of snow, Indianapolis an inch of ice, and the Northeast still more ice and snow in what is shaping up to be a record winter for the region.

The system that stretched more than 2,000 miles across a third of the country promised to leave in its aftermath a chilly cloak of teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the single digits or lower.

Winds topped 60 mph in Texas. The newspaper in Tulsa canceled its print edition for the first time in more than a century. In Chicago, public schools called a snow day for the first time in 12 years, and both major airports gave up on flying until at least tomorrow afternoon.

The high winds also had Chicago officials contemplating steps they have not taken in years — starting with closing the city's busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive because of the threat that high winds could produce 25-foot waves in nearby Lake Michigan.

Everyone "should brace for a storm that will be remembered for a long time," said Jose Santiago, executive director of the city's office of emergency management.

Thousands of flights canceled, including isle routes

Airlines canceled thousands of flights yesterday, erasing much of their service in the middle of the U.S. as ice coated runways in Dallas and Chicago.

(Several flights to or from Hawaii were canceled.)

(United Airlines' daily nonstop flight from Chicago arrived yesterday afternoon, but the return leg scheduled for 5:10 p.m. was canceled. In addition, United canceled today's Chicago-to-Honolulu flight, and the status of the return flight was undetermined.)

(Continental Airlines canceled yesterday's direct flight from Newark, N.J., as well as the return flight from Honolulu last night.)

Flight tracking service FlightAware logged more than 6,000 cancellations yesterday and more than 3,000 for today.

American Airlines operations took a one-two punch, with storms hitting its hubs in Dallas and Chicago. Ice closed Dallas-Fort Worth International for more than two hours in the morning. Even after it reopened, few American flights took off, in part because high winds made it too dangerous to send de-icing crews up in bucket trucks, said American spokesman Tim Smith.

American canceled some 1,900 flights yesterday, more than half of its schedule, Smith said. Roughly three-quarters of all American flights at Dallas were canceled, he said.

United Airlines canceled 850 flights, many in Chicago. United and its feeder carriers would usually fly 540 departures a day out of O'Hare, but roughly 300 of those were canceled, spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said.

Continental Airlines unit canceled about 600 flights, including many at its hub in Newark, N.J.

The airlines now take a simple approach to bad weather: Cancel flights early, if possible. In last week's storm in the Northeast, most of the 3,500 cancellations happened before the first snowflake fell. This prevents an aircraft from being stranded at a socked-in airport when it could be flying passengers in a part of the country with better weather.

Star-Advertiser staff and news services

Cities across middle America shut down hours ahead of the snow. Scores of schools, colleges and government offices canceled activities or decided not to open at all. Advice to stay home was followed widely.

"If you're a true Chicagoan, you don't back down from this kind of storm," Edward Butler, doorman at one of Chicago's elegant apartment buildings closest to Lake Michigan, said as he peered outside at snow blowing horizontally and in small cyclones.

But, he added, "if you don't respect it, you'll pay a price."

In Missouri more than a foot of snow had fallen by midday, with no end in sight. For the first time in history, the state of Missouri shut down Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City due to a winter storm.

"The roads are just pure white. There's no traffic. Nothing," said Kristi Strait, who was working at Clinton Discount Building Materials in Clinton, Mo.

The leading edge of the storm slammed first into Texas and Oklahoma after moving out of the Rockies. The blizzard halted production of the print edition of today's Tulsa World, marking the first time in the paper's nearly 106-year history that it has not published an edition.

The storm was expected to roll into the Northeast today, bringing still more snow to a winter-weary region. Towns that have been hit by several blizzards since December feared they would not have anywhere to put more snow.

Meteorologist Jeff Johnson of the National Weather Service in Des Moines said the storm was sure to "cripple transportation for a couple of days." The snow and the wind were a dangerous combination, even in areas where not that much snow was expected.

"You don't want to get caught out in the rural areas in your vehicle in this storm. It's a good night to stay home," he said.

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