Cars slid out of control as roadways turned into ice rinks in the nation's midsection today, and the north woods region braced for the heaviest snowfall of the season.
"It's a real mess, typical of a late-winter storm," meteorologist George Josephs of the National Weather Service said.
Freezing rain put a sheet of ice on highways from Kansas to Indiana as drivers were helpless to control their vehicles, resulting in multi-car pileups, police said.
"They're trying their best but the roads are 100% ice," a spokeswoman for the Iowa State Police in Cedar Rapids said. She reported dozens of minor accidents in eastern Iowa but no serious injuries because drivers had slowed to a crawl.
Chicago-area police reported at least two multi-car pileups on expressways leading into the city because of the ice although the problems gradually melted away as temperatures rose above freezing.
The icy storm caused minor delays at O'Hare International Airport while long delays caused by blowing snow were expected on many flights in and out of Minneapolis Airport.
Most of Minnesota and northern Wisconsin were expected to receive up to a foot of snow as the storm sucked warm, moist air up from the Gulf of Mexico while dragging frigid Arctic air down from Canada.
"It's really a triple-barrel storm that has the potential to be the biggest of the season," Josephs said.