- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) — Utility crews worked overtime yesterday to restore electrical service to thousands of customers still blacked out by the Midwest’s first big snowstorm of the season.

As temperatures plummeted below freezing in the storm’s aftermath, officials said some people could be without power for days. Missouri National Guard teams went door to door in the St. Louis area to make sure residents were surviving the cold.

The storm was blamed for at least 13 deaths as it spread ice and deep snow from Texas to Michigan and then blew through the Northeast late Friday and early yesterday. Schools and businesses were shuttered and hundreds of airline passengers were stranded by canceled flights.

Truck driver David Huwe just got his 18-wheeler and load of frozen food back on the road yesterday after being stuck for more than 12 hours at a rest stop near Princeton, Ill., on Interstate 80, which was blocked by scores of trucks and cars that slid off the icy highway.

“I was supposed to be (in California) Sunday night,” Mr. Huwe said. He had revised his arrival time and hoped he’d make it by tomorrow.

Red Cross volunteers in Decatur, Ill., helped some stranded I-80 travelers by ordering 100 McDonald’s hamburgers, which were then airlifted by the National Guard.

“We had 35 minutes from the time we got the call to the airlift,” Deb Helm said. McDonald’s “was what was available.”

Many areas of Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri got more than a foot of snow, including 16 inches in parts of central Missouri and 17 at Manistee, Mich. As far south as Oklahoma, Tulsa measured more than 10 inches.

Airlines were recovering from the widespread cancellations caused by the storm; delays at Lambert Airport in St. Louis were generally 15 minutes or less yesterday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. There were no measurable delays yesterday at Chicago’s two major airports, said Wendy Abrams, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Highways were mostly clear but still had icy spots. “Nobody really should travel unless you absolutely have to get out,” Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said.

Two women were killed in Pennsylvania, one by a falling tree and another by a wind-blown section of roof. Another falling tree landed on a house and killed one person in New York, authorities said. Two men died after shoveling snow in Wisconsin, and an 87-year-old woman died in the St. Louis area in a house fire that started when an ice-laden tree limb fell on a power line, fire officials said.

Storm-related traffic deaths included two in Missouri, one in Kansas and one in Oklahoma. Near Paducah, Texas, a vehicle carrying a high school girls’ basketball team overturned on an icy highway, killing a 14-year-old player and injuring seven other persons.

In Illinois, a woman died after being struck by a snow plow that was backing up, and a 67-year-old man died after using a hand saw to cut fallen tree limbs.

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