Midwest blizzard leaves some stranded
Blizzard conditions in the midwest on Thursday delayed holiday travelers and caused hazardous conditions on the roads. Despite the inconvenience, some were glad to see the snow.
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"I saw some people in my neighborhood trying to get out. They made it a few feet, and that was about it," Shubert said.
Along with Thursday's fatal accident in Iowa, the storm was blamed for traffic deaths in Nebraska, Kansas and Wisconsin. In southeastern Utah, a woman who tried to walk for help after her car became stuck in snow died 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 Alabama.
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 snow-packed and slippery.
In Chicago, commuters began Thursday with heavy fog and cold, driving rain. By early evening, high winds and sleet that was expected to turn to snow were making visibility difficult on roadways.
Airlines were waiving fees for customers impacted by the storm who wanted to change their flights. They were monitoring the storm throughout the night to determine if more cancellations would be necessary on Friday.
The 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 FlightAware.com 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.
Before the storm, several cities in the Midwest had broken records for the number of consecutive days without measurable snow.
In Madison, Wis., where more than 19 inches of snow fell, Plaza Tavern manager Erica DeRosa was busy shoveling the sidewalk to prepare for Thursday's lunch crowd.
"This is like shoveling wet cement," she said. "But it is super pretty out."
In the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, Kristin Isenhart, 38, said her three kids, ages 9, 5 and 3, were asking about going outside to play after school was canceled for the day.
"They are thrilled that it snowed," she said. "They've asked several times to go outside, and I might bundle them up and let them go."
As far as the region's drought, meteorologists said the storm wouldn't make much of a dent. It takes a foot or more of snow to equal an inch of water, said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center.