Travelers facing canceled flights and closedÂ roads were hoping to finally head to their holiday destinations as a widespreadÂ snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest movedÂ across the Great Lakes towards Canada.
The storm, that began in the Rockies earlierÂ in the week, led airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights and caused whiteoutÂ conditions that left roads dangerous to drive on. It was blamed for deaths in atÂ least five states, with parts of Iowa and Wisconsin hit with more than a foot ofÂ snow.
While some people went to work on diggingÂ themselves out even as the storm continued today, others had less control asÂ they waited for word of new flight times.
As the blizzard moved towards New York,Â travel problems increased for those flying home for the holidays today.Â Thunderstorms were predicted early this morning with torrential rain and windsÂ up to 74mph. As the storm passes on Saturday, snow was expected in New York CityÂ – the first flakes since November.
Some flights arriving at La Guardia thisÂ morning have been delayed up to three hours. Flights were grounded at JFK untilÂ 7.15am due to high winds. Newark Airport officials warned travelers to check forÂ updates as delays were likely.
Most of the canceled flights were inÂ Chicago, where more than 350 flights have been called off at O’HareÂ International Airport and more than 150 at Midway InternationalÂ Airport.
United Airlines also planned toÂ operate aÂ full schedule, though officials for both airlines cautionedÂ travelers to checkÂ their flight status before heading to the airport.
The storm made travel difficult fromÂ KansasÂ to Wisconsin, forcing road closures, including a 120-mile stretch of InterstateÂ 35 from Ames, Iowa, through Albert Lea, Minnesota.
Iowa and Wisconsin activated National GuardÂ troops to help rescue stranded drivers. In Iowa, two people were killed and seven injured in aÂ 25-vehicle pileup.
Drivers were blinded by blowing snow andÂ didn’t see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on Interstate 35Â about 60 milesÂ north of Des Moines, state police said. A chain reactionÂ of crashes involvingÂ semitrailers and passenger cars closed down aÂ section of theÂ highway.
In southeastern Utah, a woman who tried toÂ walk for help after her car became stuck in snow died on TuesdayÂ night.
On the southern edge of the stormÂ system,Â tornadoes destroyed several homes in Arkansas and peeled theÂ roofs fromÂ buildings, toppled trucks and blew down oak trees and limbsÂ inÂ Alabama.
The flight cancellations were getting a lotÂ of attention because the storm came just a few days beforeÂ Christmas. ButÂ Daniel Baker, CEO of flight tracking serviceÂ FlightAware.com, called it ‘aÂ relatively minor event in the overallÂ scheme of things’.
By comparison, airlines canceled more thanÂ 13,000 flights over a two-day period during a February 2011Â snowstorm that hitÂ the Midwest. And more than 20,000 flights wereÂ canceled during SuperstormÂ Sandy.