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Updated: February 2, 2011 16:27 IST

U.S. Midwest buckles under storm, storm heads east

AP
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A vehicle drives westbound on I-70 near Lawrence, Kan., on Tuesday. The area is under a blizzard warning. Photo: AP.
A vehicle drives westbound on I-70 near Lawrence, Kan., on Tuesday. The area is under a blizzard warning. Photo: AP.

The monstrous storm billed as the worst in decades delivered knock-out after knock-out as it made its way from Texas to Maine, bringing Chicago and the rest of the Midwest to a halt and prompting a region-wide snow day.

A colossal blizzard roaring across a third of the United States paralyzed the nation’s heartland with ice and snow, shuttering airports and schools and leaving normally bustling downtowns deserted.

The monstrous storm billed as the worst in decades delivered knock-out after knock-out as it made its way from Texas to Maine, bringing Chicago and the rest of the Midwest to a halt and prompting a region-wide snow day.

“I’m usually sceptical about predictions of a big storm,” 50-year-old law firm librarian Janet Smith said on Tuesday afternoon while waiting at a downtown Chicago train station. “But I’m kind of excited. I wasn’t around for the storm of ‘67, or the storm of ‘79, or the storm of ‘99. I’ve missed all the greats. I’m excited about experiencing it.”

For the first time in history, the state of Missouri shut down a major highway between St. Louis and Kansas City due to a winter storm. The newspaper in Tulsa, Oklahoma, cancelled its print edition for the first time in more than a century. And in Chicago, public schools called a snow day for the first time in 12 years.

And it wasn’t over yet. Chicago expected two feet (0.61 meter) of snow, Michigan more than one foot (0.3 meter), Indianapolis an inch of ice, and the Northeast still more ice and snow in what’s shaping up to be a record winter for the region.

The storm led Chicago officials to close the city’s busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive after a series of accidents, stranding some motorists and buses for several hours overnight. The city’s office of emergency management said crews were still struggling to get everyone off the roadway early Wednesday morning and some people had abandoned their cars. Forecasters also warned that high winds could push 25-foot waves from nearby Lake Michigan onto Lake Shore Drive.

In New York, officials pre-emptively banned tandem-trucks of all sizes from a major interstate. New York City residents were urged to use mass transit and to clear snow and ice from fire hydrants.

Cities across middle America shut down hours ahead of the snow. Scores of schools, colleges and government offices cancelled activities or decided not to open at all. Thousands of flights were cancelled across the nation.

Even Chicago - with its legions of snow plows and its usual confidence in the face of winter storms that would surely crush other cities - bent under the storm’s weight.

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