Deadly Storm Sweeps Midwest

A man makes his way toward his home during a snowstorm in Duluth, Minn., Sunday morning, Dec. 23, 2007. Winter storm warnings were posted for parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan on Sunday as the core of the storm headed north across the Great Lakes. Parts of Wisconsin already had a foot of snow, and up to a foot was forecast Sunday in northeastern Minnesota, the National Weather Service said.
AP/Duluth News Tribune, A.Odeski
Even as a deadly snowstorm loosened its grip on the upper Midwest of the United States, officials warned that holiday travelers still faced treacherous roadways Monday.

At least 11 deaths were blamed on the storm, which led to multi-car pileups that closed parts of several major highways in the Plains and knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses across the Midwest.

Snow and strong wind gusts made for tough driving, but conditions began to ease Monday, when winter storm warnings for parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan were set to lapse.

However, that would not necessarily mean safer roads, authorities cautioned.

"The roads aren't quite as ice-covered, but we're still telling people not to drive unless they have to," said Sgt. Tim Elve of the Dane County Sheriff's Office. "The interstate is still slick, and the rural roads are really bad."

Authorities had issued urgent pleas for travelers to remain home Sunday, but officials worried that those travelers would insist on driving Monday, regardless of the weather, to get to their destinations for Christmas Eve.

"I know it's the holidays, but we hope people use some common sense when traveling," said Sgt. Chad Breuer of the Grant County Sheriff's Department in southwest Wisconsin.

The storm rolled through Colorado and Wyoming on Friday, then spread snow and ice on Saturday from the Texas Panhandle to Wisconsin. Radar showed snow falling across much of Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota on Sunday and moving into parts of Michigan and Indiana.

The weather system also spread heavy rain Sunday from the Southeast to the lower Great Lakes.

The area of Madison, Wisconsin, got three to four hours of freezing rain early Sunday. The combination of icy pavement and gusty wind made driving treacherous.

Wind gusting to more than 50 mph uprooted trees in parts of Michigan.

Winds were recorded blowing as fast as 88 mph over Lake Michigan, with gusts of 50 to 68 mph across the Chicago region, according to the National Weather Service.

The winter weather caused flight delays and cancellations for holiday travelers. Rafael Romo of CBS station WBBM-TV reports that numerous flights were either cancelled or delayed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport due the gusty winds and blinding, blowing snow.

Because of the wind, airlines canceled more than 300 flights Sunday at O'Hare International Airport, the city Aviation Department said. Municipal officials said the wind had knocked out nearly 170 traffic signals, and there were more than 500 reports of fallen trees and limbs.

More than 11,000 homes and businesses were without power at some point Saturday in Wisconsin because of the freezing rain, ice, gusty wind and heavy snow, utilities said. Michigan utilities reported some 60,000 customers were still without power Sunday night, and in Illinois about 15,000 customers were blacked out.

At least three people in Minnesota, three in Wyoming, three in Wisconsin and one person each in Texas and Kansas were killed in traffic accidents that authorities blamed on the storm.

The fatality in Texas came in a chain-reaction pileup involving more than 50 vehicles, including several tractor-trailer rigs, on Interstate 40, police said. At least 16 people were taken to hospitals, police said.

Many involved in the pileup were holiday travelers, including families with small children not dressed for the weather. Other drivers opened their own Christmas presents to provide warmer clothing for the children.