A major winter storm moving across the nation’s northern tier brought heavy snow and high winds to the Midwest Saturday, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Chicago airports and creating a nightmare for many highway travelers.
As the weekend storm, driven by bitterly cold Arctic area, 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.
Chicago was expected to get as much as 8 inches of snow, with wind gusts likely to reach 35 mph.
More than 460 flights were canceled Saturday morning at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago while Chicago’s Midway International Airport canceled about 50 flights.
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. And in South Dakota, where snow was starting to pile up, authorities warned drivers to give plows extra room.
In 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 miles-per-hour,” 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 cancelled 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.
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.
Contributing: Meaghan M. McDermott, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; Associated Press