A winter storm that buried the Great Plains in more than a foot of snow lost some of its punch as it blew through Chicago overnight, but it still managed to slow the morning commute with slick roads and dozens of spinouts on expressways.
Snow began tapering off around 5:30 a.m., but the National Weather Service was warning of freezing drizzle through the morning and light snow in the afternoon. A winter weather advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m.
At 6 a.m., 2.7 inches had fallen at O'Hare International Airport, tying the highest total recorded there this winter, according to the National Weather Service. Accumulation ranged from 2 to 5 inches throughout the area, according to the Chicago Weather Center.
About 5 inches were reported in Woodstock, 4 inches in Crown Point, Ind., 3.8 inches in Huntley, 3.8 in Milwaukee, 3.5 inches in Lake Villa, 3.4 inches at Wrigley Field, 3.2 inches in Plainfield, 3.1 inches at Midway Airport, 3 inches in Oak Park, 2.7 inches in Mokena, 2.5 inches in Schaumburg, 2.4 inches in Orland Hills, 2.4 inches in Batavia, 2.4 inches in Joliet, and 2 inches in Chesterton, Ind.
At the height of the storm shortly after midnight, state police described road conditions as "horrible." But conditions had improved by the time the morning rush hour began. Still, state police said they had responded to 22 accidents as of 7 a.m. but there were many other spinouts that didn't require their assistance.
The city of Chicago sent 284 plows to work clearing main thoroughfares, according to the Streets and Sanitation Department.
Dozens of schools closed because of the storm, or delayed start times.
As of late Friday morning delays at O'Hare International Airport are averaging 30 minutes for inbound and outbound flights, according to the city's Department of Aviation.
Airlines there have canceled more than 300 flights primary because of weather, according to the department.
At Midway, airlines have delays of about 15 minutes while there were more than 30 cancellations, the department said.
Flurries could linger into the weekend, with a chance for light snow on Saturday. High temperatures both days should be around 30, with lows in the low 20s and high teens both mornings.
Kansas bore the brunt of the storm, with up to 15 inches of snow in some parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service. A 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70 in central Kansas was closed and strewn with cars stuck in snow.
National Guard troops riding in Humvees were dispatched to look for stranded motorists along the interstate and other highways, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for Kansas emergency management services.
The fierce storm triggered severe thunderstorms from eastern Texas to Georgia. Thunder accompanied snow in Kansas City, hit by 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour on Thursday morning.
"When there is thunder and lightning, it's a pretty screaming clue that you are going to have massive snowfall," said Andy Bailey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declared states of emergency because of hazardous travel and possible power outages. Brownback ordered state offices closed because of the storm.
Kansas City International Airport was closed on Thursday while crews cleared runways. It was unclear when the airport would reopen, spokesman Joe McBride said.
At the Denver International Airport, some 55 commuter flights were canceled overnight, spokeswoman Laura Coale said. More than 320 flights in and out of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport were scrapped and nearly 50 flights in and out of Omaha's Eppley Airfield were listed as canceled by midday.
In Nebraska, a 19-year-old woman was killed in a two-car accident on Wednesday on Interstate 80 near Giltner. The Nebraska State Patrol said weather was a factor.
An 18-year-old man died in Oklahoma when his vehicle slid into a semi-truck on a slushy state highway, the state's highway patrol said.
The storm is expected to reach the East Coast this weekend, delivering heavy snow to parts of New England for a third straight weekend, from northern Connecticut to southern Maine.