Wintry weather bedeviled Thanksgiving weekend travelers across the United States on Saturday as a powerful and dangerous storm moved eastward, dumping heavy snow from parts of California to the northern Midwest and inundating other areas with rain.
Authorities found the bodies of two young children, including a 5-year-old boy, and a third child was missing in central Arizona after a vehicle was swept away while attempting to cross a runoff-swollen creek. A storm-related death also was reported in South Dakota.
The National Weather Service said the storm was expected to drop 6 to 12 inches of snow from the northern Plains states into Minnesota, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.
Blizzard conditions early Saturday buffeted the High Plains. The city of Duluth, Minn., issued a no-travel advisory beginning noon Saturday because of a major snowstorm it termed “historic.”
Duluth officials asked the public to be patient as plows clear roadways and recommended that drivers stay off the roads to prevent accidents and let officers respond more quickly to emergencies.
To the south, rain and thunderstorms were forecast along and ahead of the cold front, with heavy rainfall possible in parts of the Tennessee and Ohio valleys.
A new system was forecast to develop in the mid-Atlantic on Sunday, moving as a nor’easter into Monday. A new storm in California was also expected to bring rain, gusty winds and several feet of mountain snow during the weekend.
Airlines at O’Hare International and Midway International airports in Chicago reported average delays of 15 minutes as a winter storm headed toward the Midwest with heavy snow and ice and gusty winds.
The airlines said they had canceled 27 flights at O’Hare and two at Midway as people scrambled to get home on the year’s busiest travel weekend.
“Tomorrow the airlines anticipate to be the busiest travel day of the Thanksgiving period at both O’Hare and Midway,” Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation, said Saturday. “Everybody thinks the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest; it is not.”
At Denver International Airport, there were 100 flights canceled Saturday because of high winds.
Authorities in Western states were still grappling Saturday with the aftermath of heavy rains and snow over the busy travel weekend.
In Arizona, officials initially found the body of the 5-year-old about 3 miles downstream from where a vehicle was swept away Friday, said Gila County Sheriff’s Lt. Virgil Dodd. The second of the three children turned up later Saturday. The sheriff’s office didn’t provide the second child’s age and gender.
The agency said Saturday two other children and two adults who were in the vehicle were rescued from a small island and the bank of a creek in Tonto National Forest northeast of Phoenix. Sheriff’s officials initially had said six people, including four children, were rescued Friday at locations along the creek.
A 100-mile section of Interstate 80 in Nebraska and Wyoming closed Saturday morning because of high winds and blowing snow.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation said I-80 was closed in both directions and advised against travel in the state’s Panhandle region. Several other roads and highways also were closed.
Back-to-back snowstorms and strong winds combined to seriously complicate travel by land across much of the rest of Wyoming, where roads were closed in the eastern and southern parts of the state because of whiteout conditions.
The National Weather Service in Wyoming reported 4 inches of snow fell in Cheyenne from 7 p.m. Friday through 10 a.m. Saturday “that has been blown all over kingdom come by our winds,” said meteorologist Andrew Lyons.
That was added to a foot of snow that fell before Thanksgiving.
Wind gusts up to 50 mph created ground blizzards and below-zero wind chill temperatures in some areas. A wind gust of 77 mph was reported in the mountains between Cheyenne and Laramie, Lyons said.
All roads in and out of Casper were closed Saturday morning, including the entire 300-mile stretch of Interstate 25 in Wyoming.
Travel was also difficult in Colorado on Saturday as winds blew around snow that had fallen in previous days.
Northeastern Colorado roads were closed because of strong winds, blowing and drifting snow and poor visibility.
Interstate 25, U.S. Highway 85 and U.S. Highway 287 were closed north of Fort Collins, Colo., because of the poor conditions in Wyoming.