Travelers facing canceled flights and closed  roads were hoping to finally head to their holiday destinations as a widespread  snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest moved  across the Great Lakes towards Canada.

The storm, that began in the Rockies earlier  in the week, led airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights and caused whiteout  conditions that left roads dangerous to drive on. It was blamed for deaths in at  least five states, with parts of Iowa and Wisconsin hit with more than a foot of  snow.

While some people went to work on digging  themselves out even as the storm continued today, others had less control as  they waited for word of new flight times.

As the blizzard moved towards New York,  travel problems increased for those flying home for the holidays today.  Thunderstorms were predicted early this morning with torrential rain and winds  up to 74mph. As the storm passes on Saturday, snow was expected in New York City  – the first flakes since November.

Some flights arriving at La Guardia this  morning have been delayed up to three hours. Flights were grounded at JFK until  7.15am due to high winds. Newark Airport officials warned travelers to check for  updates as delays were likely.

Most of the canceled flights were in  Chicago, where more than 350 flights have been called off at O’Hare  International Airport and more than 150 at Midway International  Airport.

Southwest Airlines, which canceled  all of  its flights out of its Midway hub after 4.30pm on Thursday, was  anticipating  normal operations on Friday morning in Chicago.

United Airlines also planned to  operate a  full schedule, though officials for both airlines cautioned  travelers to check  their flight status before heading to the airport.

The storm made travel difficult from  Kansas  to Wisconsin, forcing road closures, including a 120-mile stretch of Interstate  35 from Ames, Iowa, through Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Iowa and Wisconsin activated National Guard  troops to help rescue stranded drivers. In Iowa, two people were killed and seven injured in a  25-vehicle pileup.

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.

Three other states also had traffic  deaths  that were blamed on the storm. There were at least two deaths in  each Nebraska  and Wisconsin, and one in Kansas.

In southeastern Utah, a woman who tried to  walk for help after her car became stuck in snow died on Tuesday  night.

On the southern edge of the storm  system,  tornadoes destroyed several homes in Arkansas and peeled the  roofs from  buildings, toppled trucks and blew down oak trees and limbs  in  Alabama.

The flight cancellations were getting a lot  of attention because the storm came just a few days before  Christmas. But  Daniel Baker, CEO of flight tracking service, called it ‘a  relatively minor event in the overall  scheme of things’.

By comparison, airlines canceled more than  13,000 flights over a two-day period during a February 2011  snowstorm that hit  the Midwest. And more than 20,000 flights were  canceled during Superstorm  Sandy.


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