Snow in Midwest leads to fatal 25-vehicle pileup

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The first widespread snowstorm of the season crawled across the Midwest on Thursday, with whiteout conditions stranding holiday travelers and sending drivers sliding over slick roads — including into a fatal 25-vehicle pileup in Iowa.

The storm, which dumped a foot of snow in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin, was part of a system that began in the Rockies earlier in the week before trekking into the Midwest. It was expected to move across the Great Lakes overnight before moving into Canada.

On the southern edge of the system, powerful storms packing wind and rain damaged homes in Arkansas, peeled roofs off buildings and toppled trucks in Alabama, and led to flight cancellations in Texas.

In Iowa, drivers were blinded by blowing snow and didn’t see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on Interstate 35 about 60 miles north of Des Moines, state police said. A chain reaction of crashes involving semitrailers and passenger cars closed down a section of the highway. At least one person was killed.

“It’s time to listen to warnings and get off the road,” said Iowa State Patrol Col. David Garrison.

Thomas Shubert, a clerk at a store in Gretna, Neb., near Omaha, said his brother drove him to work in his truck, but some of his neighbors weren’t so fortunate.

“I saw some people in my neighborhood trying to get out. They made it a few feet, and that was about it,” Shubert said.

The heavy, wet snow made some unplowed streets in Des Moines nearly impossible to navigate in anything other than a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Even streets that had been plowed were snowpacked and slippery. Eight jackknifed semitrailers were reported on a section of Interstate 80 east of the city, with portions of the roads closed until the accidents could be cleared.

The storm made travel difficult from Kansas to Wisconsin, forcing road closures, including a portion of Interstate 29 in northern Missouri and part of Interstate 80 in Nebraska. Iowa and Wisconsin activated National Guard troops to help rescue stranded drivers.

Those who planned to fly before the Christmas holiday didn’t fare much better.

In Chicago, commuters began Thursday with heavy fog and cold and driving rain, and forecasters said snow would hit by midafternoon.

Airlines delayed and canceled hundreds of flights out of Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports. Southwest Airlines, which has a hub at Midway, canceled all of its flights after 4:30 p.m.

In Texas, American Airlines reported 120 cancellations at Dallas-Fort Worth because of thunderstorms.

“We are trying to delay as much as we can, instead of canceling, because we know that we have many customers who are trying to make their holiday travel plans,” said American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Huguely.

Before the storm, several cities in the Midwest had broken records for the number of consecutive days without measurable snow.

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