By STEVE KARNOWSKI, Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Gusty winds and iced-over roadways made for treacherous Midwest travel Friday as a major winter storm headed east over the Great Lakes.
Three deaths have been linked to the storm, including two from traffic accidents in Minnesota and Nebraska. Elsewhere, commuters faced strong winds of Lake Michigan in eastern Wisconsin. While Chicago's large fleet of snowplows salted and cleared the city's streets of 3 inches of snow, commuters slogged through slush to get to their offices.
Hundreds of flights in and out of Chicago's two airports were canceled Friday morning, and the Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., airports both reopened Friday morning but had numerous cancellations and delays.
The snow began falling in Detroit just in time for the morning rush, turning streets and freeways into a mess.
Head bowed and arms crossed, Detroit resident Patrice Denham pushed forward into the swirling snow. She had just walked several blocks to her townhouse complex's leasing office for a new mailbox key and was heading back home.
"You live in the city of Detroit and you do what you have to do," Denham said referring to the rough winter weather that regularly affects the city. "If it's going to be cold, it's going to be cold. But this has been only an average winter."
Where the storm struck hardest Wednesday and Thursday, impressive snow totals rolled in - 18 inches in the rural southern Kansas town of Zenda; 17 inches in Hays, Kan.; 13 inches in northern Oklahoma; 13 ½ inches in northeast Missouri and south-central Nebraska; and 12 inches in parts of Kansas City, Mo.
The system lost strength as it moved north and east overnight and into Friday. Illinois' totals ranged from 7.5 inches in west-central Rushville to a mix of sleet and freezing rain in the St. Louis, Mo., suburbs. Dodge County in southeastern Minnesota received 8 inches by Friday morning, and Trempealeau County in western Wisconsin had 7 inches.
Students across a large swath of Kansas spent a second day at home as crews continue to excavate residential neighborhoods. Schools also were closed in parts of Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
But travel was the main storm-related problem on Friday. In Ohio, which was clipped by the storm, a United plane slid off a slick runway at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport onto a grassy area, but no injuries were reported.
In the Twin Cities area, Raven Plendl's commute was an hour and a half longer than normal, due to bumper-to-bumper traffic in the heart of the metroplex.
"Down here (in St. Paul, Minn.) it was the worst," Plendl said of where her workplace is located.
The Minnesota State Patrol blamed the snow for over 200 accidents Friday morning. One driver was killed when a vehicle lost control, slid into oncoming traffic and broadsided another vehicle near a St. Paul suburb.
A 12-year-old boy died from injuries suffered in a collision on an icy highway in northern Nebraska on Thursday. And a western Iowa woman was run over Thursday by her car, which had gotten stuck on her steep, slippery driveway.
Also in Iowa, a bus carrying members of a college softball team was involved in a multi-vehicle crash Friday morning east of Des Moines; no serious injuries were reported.
In some locations, the storm didn't live up to the hype. At the Pilot Flying J station near Interstate 29 in southwest Iowa, shift manager Kelly Malone said Friday his company had taken precautions for employees by reserving rooms at the Super 8 Motel.
"We were prepared for the worst, but it didn't happen that bad," he said. Iowa's snow totals topped out at 9.7 inches near Sioux City. "To me it was just an average storm, but I'm a person who drives through anything," he said.
Associated Press reporters Corey Williams in Detroit; Kyle Potter in St. Paul, Minn.; Jim Suhr in St. Louis, Mo.; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Mo.; Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee; Nelson Lampe in Omaha, Neb.; and Tom Sheeran in Cleveland contributed to this story.