- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 1, 2011

CHICAGO | A winter weather colossus roared into the nation’s heartland Tuesday, 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 was living 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’s 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 cloak of teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the single digits or lower.

Winds topped 60 mph in Texas. In Oklahoma, the Tulsa World canceled its print edition for the first time in its nearly 106-year history. In Chicago, both major airports gave up on flying.


The threat of high winds also had Chicago officials contemplating steps they haven’t taken in years — starting with closing the city’s busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive because of the prospect of 25-foot waves caused by 60 mph winds washing over it from nearby Lake Michigan.

This satellite image from NOAA shows the breadth of the weather system. In the aftermath of the snow and ice, the storm will leave temperatures in the single digits or lower. (Associated Press)
This satellite image from NOAA shows the breadth of the weather system. ... more >

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.

The worst of the storm was expected late Tuesday, but many cities began shutting down hours ahead of the snow. Scores of schools, colleges and government offices canceled activities or decided not to open at all.

Large sections of busy Midwest interstates were closed, and nearly 6,000 flights had been canceled across the nation.

Early accounts indicated that many people planned to heed advice to stay home.

In Missouri, more than a foot of snow had fallen by midday, with no end in sight.

“The roads are just pure white. There’s no traffic. Nothing,” said Kristi Strait, who was working at Clinton Discount Building Materials.

The storm was so bad in Polk County — 200 miles west of St. Louis — that emergency officials requested help from the National Guard because the county didn’t have enough vehicles to get elderly residents and shut-ins to shelter if power failed.

In state capitols across the Midwest and East, lawmakers cut short their workweek because of the storm. Normally bustling downtown streets were quiet, too. Many stores were closed, with signs on the windows blaming the weather.

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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