Deadly storm in upper-Midwest blamed for two deaths, treacherous conditions

DES MOINES, IOWA Residents from Texas to Wisconsin are digging out from a major snow storm that is being blamed for four deaths, has shuttered airports, cancelled flights and made the morning commute a nightmare.

The storm has dumped more than a foot and a half of snow in some areas and just inches in others but those affected were united by one thing Friday: difficult travel conditions.

Numerous accidents and at least two deaths were being blamed on the icy, slushy roadways. Powerful wind gusts created large snow drifts on many roadways, making navigating the slick conditions a challenge. Accidents and slide-offs were reported from Kansas to Michigan as the storm pushed east Friday.

About 270 flights in and out of Chicago's two airports were cancelled Friday morning. Inbound flights at the region's busiest air traffic hub were being held up by an average of 90 minutes due to the snow and ice, according to the airline tracking website FlightAware.com. In St. Louis, more than 320 flights at Lambert Airport were cancelled.

CBS News Correspondent Dean Reynolds reporting from Libertyville, Illinois, north of Chicago, said the snow appeared to be tapering off, with 3 to 4 inches in the region overnight. "Indeed the snow may be going away but it is about to be replaced by something even worse, ice," Reynolds said Friday morning.

A car is buried under a blanket of snow in Omaha, Neb., Friday, Feb. 22, 2013.
AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Strong gusts off Lake Michigan caused problems for commuters in eastern Wisconsin. Chicago's more than 280 snowplows salted and cleared the city's streets, while commuters slogged through slush to get to their offices.

But in some locations, the storm didn't live up to the hype. At the Pilot Flying J station near Interstate 29 in southwest Iowa, shift manager Kelly Malone said Friday his company had taken precautions by reserving seven rooms for employees at the nearby Super 8 Motel.

"We were prepared for the worst, but it didn't happen that bad. To me it was just an average storm, but I'm a person who drives through anything," he said. Iowa's snow totals topped out at 9.7 inches near Sioux City.

There were some impressive snow totals; 17 inches in Hays, Kan.; 13 inches in northern Oklahoma; 13 » inches in south central Nebraska; and 10 inches near Kansas City, Mo.

Other areas had accumulation more in line with a regular winter system. Wisconsin topped out at 6 inches in New London. Minnesota ranged from 2 to 6 inches of snow, with Dodge County getting 8 inches. Northern Indiana's top total was 4 inches in Crown Point, close to the Illinois border, and Indianapolis was dealing with ice-coated surfaces.

Schools were closed in parts of Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Jason Czeshinski spreads salt at a business., Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, in Milwaukee.
John Klein,AP Photo/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

That included the University of Missouri, where classes were canceled two days in a row, one of the few times in its 174-year history. Chancellor Brady Deaton said Friday the road conditions in Columbia would make it difficult for many to reach campus.

But on Thursday, students trekked out to a local Wal-Mart, making a beeline for the aisles containing sleds and alcohol.

"This isn't our usual Thursday noon routine," Lauren Ottenger, a senior economics major from Denver, said as she stockpiled supplies.

In Iowa, police used the snow to catch two men who initially eluded a car chase.

Waterloo police arrested the men Thursday night after tracking the pair's footprints in the snow.

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