Three People Die As Snow and Ice Plaster Midwest

DES MOINES -- Forecasters predicted freezing rain and snow flurries in Iowa on Sunday, a day after snow and ice plastered the Midwest, disrupting airport and highway traffic and leaving at least three people dead.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at airports in Des Moines, Chicago and Milwaukee on Saturday, with officials closing Des Moines International Airport for several hours after a United Airlines plane slid off a taxiway as it headed to a runway for a flight to Chicago's O'Hare. None of the 44 passengers was injured and the airport reopened by mid-afternoon.

At Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, WI, an incoming Mesa Airlines regional jet flying for United Express slid off the pavement after failing to make a turn onto a taxiway, but no injuries were reported among the 25 passengers.

The National Weather Service had posted winter storm and ice warnings across parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, the eastern Dakotas, Illinois and northern Michigan, but many of the warnings were lifted later in the day. In Minnesota, Duluth received nearly 8 inches of snow.

Much of Iowa was hit by snow, sleet and freezing rain. Temperatures warmed to above freezing by Saturday evening, helping to melt away much of the ice and sleet that had accumulated, Ken Podrazik, a meteorologist with the service in Des Moines, said late Saturday.

Podrazik says some rain and freezing drizzle was expected early Sunday, turning to flurries later in the day. He said travel could remain troublesome because roads were expected to refreeze during the night. He also said gusty wind also could be a problem.

Madison had expected three inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 30 mph Saturday. The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences department postponed its annual Solstice Party, which was set for Saturday, until February.

"This is the most treacherous kind of weather that the weather can deliver," says department chairman Jonathan Martin.

The storm also complicated plans for some presidential hopefuls drumming up support for the Jan. 3 caucuses that kick off the nomination process.

Republican Mitt Romney canceled three campaign stops planned Saturday in southern Iowa, and former President Clinton canceled a rally for his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, scheduled Saturday afternoon outside Des Moines.

In the mountains of western Colorado, the storm dumped up to two feet of snow, bringing moisture to a region that had been thirsting for it. A half foot of snow in Beaver Creek forced organizers to postpone a men's World Cup super-G skiing event from Saturday to Monday.

Eastbound Interstate 70 was closed for about three hours Saturday night leading up to Vail Pass in the mountains due to accidents on icy, snowpacked roads.

Heavy ice accumulations on power lines blacked out more than 14,000 customers scattered around Iowa, according to Alliant Energy and MidAmerican Energy. Thousands more were without power near Galesburg, IL, Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris says.

In Indiana, a van carrying Purdue University's ice hockey team rolled over on an ice-slickened highway about 20 miles southwest of West Lafayette, killing one team member and injuring seven others, school officials said.

A man died when his Jeep hit a semitrailer on a highway north of Madison, WI, authorities said. Vehicles had been slowing after another semitrailer tipped on its side as the driver tried to exit the highway.

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