The first significant wintry storm of the season blanketed parts of the Midwest with a foot of snow and more was on the way Saturday, creating hazardous conditions as some travelers prepared to depart for the Thanksgiving holiday.
While winter has not officially begun, the shovels and snowblowers were out from South Dakota and southern Minnesota, to Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Illinois. The National Weather Service said the snow would continue in Illinois and Indiana on Saturday, as well as move into Michigan before heading northeast into Canada late Saturday.
"In those areas, it is going to be a very tough travel day," said National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Terry in College Park, Maryland.
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had 4 inches of snow by early Saturday. About 250 flights in and out of the busy airport had been canceled by Saturday morning, according to the tracking website FlightAware.com, while Midway International Airport had canceled about 100 flights.
Roads were slushy due to a rain and snow mix around the Chicago area, which was forecast to get between six and 10 inches. Marengo, about 65 miles northwest of the city, recorded a foot of snow, according to weather service meteorologist Bruce Sullivan. The Illinois Tollway, which maintains interstate tollways in 11 counties, said it had 185 snowplows ready to go and 84,000 tons of salt stockpiled.
Temperatures plunged behind the front. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reached 11 degrees Saturday and the town of Estherville in northern Iowa was even colder at 6 degrees with a wind chill of minus 4, the weather service said.
Southeastern South Dakota got up to 18 inches of snow on Friday, Terry said.
In Iowa, Des Moines received 6 inches by late Friday and amounts of a foot or more were common in northern Iowa. The highest recorded snowfall in the state was 17 inches, the weather service said.
The Iowa Department of Transportation warned people in Des Moines and several other cities not to travel because of the hazardous conditions. Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Nathan Ludwig said troopers in northern and western Iowa were seeing many cars in ditches, especially near Mason City and Council Bluffs, the Des Moines Register reported.
It is not unusual for snow to fall in the Midwest before Thanksgiving, Terry said.
"Some of those amounts are pretty impressive for this time of year," he added.