MILWAUKEE/CHICAGO – A major winter storm pounding the U.S. Midwest on Friday forced cancellation of hundreds of flights as heavy snow and plummeting temperatures threatened to bring travel to a standstill across the region.
The storm system stretching from western Montana to southern Michigan could drop up to 14 inches (36 cm) of snow in some areas, the National Weather Service said. The heavy snow is forecast to move into upstate New York and New England by early Saturday.
Chicago was anticipating 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of snow early on Friday with more expected over the weekend, according to the service’s forecast.
Ice and snow covered Chicago’s expressways, where there were at least 25 crashes overnight, the Chicago Tribune reported. Most state courthouses in Cook County, which encompasses Chicago, were closed for the day.
Andrew Busch, a political economist who lives in the Chicago area, marveled at his neighbors’ famed winter hardiness.
“Foot of snow, 25F, and just saw commuter in short sleeves holding coat drinking ice coffee,” he wrote on Twitter. “Yep, this is Chicago!”
City officials announced school closures in Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee because of the weather.
About 1,050 U.S. flights were canceled, with about one in five flights into or out of Chicago and Detroit airports called off, according to FlightAware.com, which tracks airline traffic.
United Airlines said on Twitter that waivers were in effect for snow-hit areas this week, allowing travelers to change flights without charges. Delta Air Lines offered to re-book flights on Friday for 18 Midwest cities.
Wind chill temperatures were expected to drop below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 C) in many areas across the region, and officials warned of limited visibility on roads. The central and northern Rockies also will see heavy snow, the weather service said.
Winter weather this week killed several people in accidents in the Midwest, including six in Iowa, two in Missouri and one in Montana, local media in those states reported.