Freezing rain, sleet and snow made highway travel miserable Friday from Indiana to Colorado, causing scores of auto accidents, closing schools, downing power lines and delaying flights at the world’s busiest airport.
“We’ve got major accidents all over,” said Illinois State Police Sgt. George Michel, whose district covers the Chicago area.
Freezing rain contributed to a 20-vehicle pile-up on the Edens Expressway north of Chicago. At the same time, a 10-vehicle crash on Route 190 to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago temporarily blocked lanes.
Storm Barrels East
Ice hindered air travel in and out of the Chicago area as the storm barreled east from the Pacific, after having dumped up to 18 inches of snow around Seattle.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Mort Edelstein said at the height of the problem only one of the six runways at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport operated. Planes were delayed for at least an hour.
But by afternoon, air travel was “back on track pretty much,” a Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman said.
More than a foot of snow blanketed Colorado, with up to 16 inches recorded early Friday in Steamboat Lake.
In Wisconsin, five inches fell in six hours at Milwaukee and four inches was reported at Green Bay.
Four to nine inches had fallen over much of southern Minnesota. Springfield reported nine inches, Mankato had eight and the Twin Cities more than five inches by mid-afternoon. Forecasters said the storm would dump as much as 15 inches.
The freezing rain, which often mixed with snow, fell over northwest Indiana, northern Illinois, southern Iowa, southeastern Nebraska, north-central Kansas and north-central Colorado.
Ice and high winds toppled 300 electric poles in northwest Kansas area of Goodland, leaving about 500 rural Midwest Energy customers without power.
Ice buildup from two days of freezing drizzle caused a 420-foot radio tower to collapse in northwestern Kansas on Friday. No injuries were reported.
“I’m real glad I was the only one here because if somebody would have been pulling into the lot it could have been disastrous,” said Jan Bainter, operations manager of KFNF-FM at Oberlin, Kan.
“It kind of dominoed down all around the station, literally,” she said. “It struck the southeast corner of the station, took the corner off the building.”
In Iowa, schools across the state were delayed or closed Friday.
Morning snow also fell over the mountains of Arizona, and winds gusted to 40 m.p.h. at Kingman and Winslow.
In the Northwest, record cold hit a day after a record snowstorm that dumped up to 14 inches of snow in the Puget Sound area of Washington. Seattle-Tacoma, Wash., hit a record low of 24 degrees; Portland, Ore., hit 29, and Astoria, Ore., had a record 24, the National Weather Service said.