Snow is starting to pick up along Interstate 490 in Rochester, New York. The winter storm is expected to bring heavy snow from the Midwest into the Northeast through Sunday, making travel extremely dangerous.
At least one person has died in a crash on slick roads as a major winter storm moved across the nation’s northern tier, bringing heavy snow and high winds to the Midwest on Saturday.
The storm forced cancellations of hundreds of flights at Chicago airports and created a nightmare for many highway travelers, while severe thunderstorms caused damage in the Deep South.
As the weekend snowstorm, driven by bitterly cold Arctic air, sweeps eastward, the National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings from the Dakotas to New England, cautioning that conditions in the Northeast “could approach blizzard criteria.” Ice was also a possibility in some areas in the storm’s path.
Stephen Windler, 25, a snowplow driver for the Kansas Department of Transportation, died after the truck he was driving on U.S. Highway 69 rolled over, throwing him from the vehicle which landed on top of him. He was identified in an online crash report by the Kansas Highway Patrol.
The crash occurred around 6 a.m. Saturday just outside the Kansas City metropolitan area, according to The Wichita Eagle.
Also in Missouri, a 15-vehicle crash blocked a section of Interstate 55 as snow from the massive winter storm caused slick roads. The Missouri Department of Transportation issued the news of the pileup near Ste. Genevieve on its Twitter page around 4 p.m. Saturday.
Chicago was expected to get as much as 8 inches of snow, with wind gusts likely to reach 35 mph.
A United Airlines plane carrying 129 people skidded off a runway at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport Saturday amid snowy and icy weather. No injuries were reported.
More than 2,500 flights were canceled Saturday, more than 1,000 of which were at Chicago airports. Nationwide,11,065 flights were delayed as of late Saturday evening, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.
Travelers beware: Airlines already canceling flights into Monday from winter storm
Amtrak canceled some train service Saturday from Chicago to Washington and New York and between New York and Boston and Pennsylvania on Sunday.
In Iowa, the Department of Transportation warned that visibility was less than a half-mile in many locations due to snow and wind. Some spots in Iowa could see as much as 8-12 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
And in South Dakota, where snow was starting to pile up, authorities warned drivers to give plows extra room.
The governors of New York and Pennsylvania declared emergencies for their states, which were squarely in the path of the storm. New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a travel ban on tractor-trailers and buses on the Thruway and other interstate highways in the state beginning Saturday afternoon.
The weather service in Albany, New York, said snow could fall at a rate of 1 to 3 inches an hour, creating “difficult to impossible travel conditions” in areas.
Parts of upstate New York and New England could see from 1-3 feet of snow.
New York transportation authorities warned drivers to keep an eye for the hundreds of snow plows that would be active all weekend.
“Our plows travel at a maximum speed of 35 mph,” said Jordan Guerrein, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. “People need to give them some room to work, they’re big and heavy and often spreading salt. As we always say ‘don’t crowd the plow.'”
Special Olympics super-regional competition was canceled in upstate New York. Nearly 200 athletes from around New York state were expected to compete Saturday in snowshoeing, snowboarding, cross country, and Nordic and Alpine skiing at West Mountain, just outside Glens Falls.
In New York City, which should feel the brunt of the storm from Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, snow accumulation of 3-6 inches was forecast.
There is also a travel advisory from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Sunday for the resort city of Niagara Falls. Mayor Paul Dyster, anticipating overnight bad weather, issued a statement saying, “If you must travel, use extreme caution.”
The NWS is forecasting the deepest snow for Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Forecasters also warned of rain followed by plunging temperatures in the city that could turn to ice as temperatures plunged into the single-digits into Monday.
Forecasts indicated that the storm would largely slide just north of Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, severe thunderstorms rumbled across the Deep South on Saturday afternoon, with one storm producing a tornado that caused extensive damage in an Alabama town.
In Wetumpka, located about 30 minutes to the northeast of Montgomery, several buildings were leveled after the intense storm passed through the area.
Contributing: Meaghan M. McDermott, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; Associated Press
Amid the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, the National Weather Service says they are continuing to operate without pay to ensure the safety of the public.
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