Storm Shuts Down Airports, Federal Government

Hundreds of canceled flights stranded travelers Tuesday as a fierce winter storm blew snow and ice across the Midwest into the Northeast, shutting down the federal government in Washington, D.C.

Heavy, wind-driven snow was piling up throughout Indiana and central Illinois, where some areas got over a foot. The Weather Channel said blizzard warnings were posted from central Illinois into northwest Ohio, with a foot of fresh snow forecast overnight.

Snowfall of 1 to 2 feet was forecast in northern Pennsylvania and much of New York state by late today.

The National Weather Service issued storm warnings for today from western Missouri and Iowa across to the East Coast and northward through Maine.

In Washington, the federal government shut down offices before the storm arrived. Federal workers were sent home at 2 p.m. in anticipation of icy rush-hour roads.

More than 1,000 flights were canceled as the weather shut down Chicago's O'Hare Airport for a time and sent ripples across the nation's air system, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

More than 500 of the canceled flights were into or out of Chicago. Airports in Cincinnati, Washington, Philadelphia and New York also reported significant delays and cancellations as workers struggled to keep runways clear of snow and ice.

Flights into Philadelphia were delayed an average of six hours, the FAA said. Still, the atmosphere was relatively calm inside the Philadelphia International Airport as delayed flights turned into canceled ones.

"They're looking for hotels," said Christina Mendozzi, a waitress at Jack Duggan's Pub.

"People seem exhausted. They're looking for rooms, but some people can't find any."

Amtrak canceled afternoon passenger trains between Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation began treating roads early Tuesday with about 2,250 dump trucks and 520 front-end loaders. Agency spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the big worry was sleet and freezing rain following the snowfall.

"Snow is always easier to deal with," Kirkpatrick said. "It's a much more difficult proposition when you have this sandwich effect of snow, then ice, then snow on top of it."

The Illinois Department of Transportation listed more than 75% of the state's counties as having "snow- or ice-covered" roads.

State police spokesman Lt. Scott Compton said troopers are working overtime throughout the state. "We've had difficulty getting around in these conditions as well," he said.

At least four traffic deaths were blamed on the weather, according to the Associated Press. In southwest Ohio, a 9-year-old girl walking her dog was killed when an ice-covered tree branch fell on her, Miami Township Fire Chief James Whitworth told the Associated Press.

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