Snow Storms Continue To Wreak Havoc

Saturday, December 27th 2008, 9:21 am
By: News 9

(CBS/AP) Snow storms caused huge problems for pre-Christmas travel this year. Now forecasters are warning of more severe weather for the return-trip.

The storms this week are already blamed for at least 40 deaths nationwide, as CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reported for the CBS Evening News.

Another snowstorm pummeled parts of the West on Friday, snarling post-holiday traffic and darkening lights on Christmas trees, and freezing rain covered some Midwest highways with a dangerous sheet of ice.

In the Midwest, most streets and highways in the Chicago area were ice-glazed. The Eisenhower Expressway - Interstate 290 - was closed for a time because of the ice, but the temperature was rising above the freezing point by midmorning. The village of Lemont, Ill., shut down all its major intersections.

The conditions in Chicago caused drivers to spin out of control. Many had to be rescued from their overturned cars.

"I lost control. My car went up on the barricade and flipped over," driver Marcaelis Sanders told Solorzano "I hit my head on the dashboard."

The full length of the Indiana Toll Road, more than 150 miles, was shut down for about two hours Friday morning because it was "an entire sheet of ice" with numerous accidents, said state Trooper William Jones. Indiana also closed a 10-mile section of Interstate 69 just north of Fort Wayne.

Seven Indiana traffic deaths were blamed on the ice Friday, adding to four weather-related deaths in that state earlier in the week. In Indianapolis, a fire engine slid head-on into a tree, sending four firefighters to a hospital with minor injuries.

Temperatures could reach the 50s and even 60s in the region Saturday, after subzero readings earlier in the week, and a possibility of 2 inches of rain was forecast in Indiana.

The National Weather Service issued flood watches for much of Illinois, saying "the potential exists for very serious and potentially life threatening flooding."

And that's just one part of the country dealing with nasty winter weather. Three separate storms are stacking up misery across the country. They're taking pretty much the same path from the Pacific Northwest, through the Mountain West, then grazing the lower Great Lakes region. So as soon as one storm clears out, there's another right behind it, Solorzano reported.

In Seattle more than a foot of snow has fallen in the last month. In some southwestern parts of Colorado, more than three feet of snow fell in just 24 hours.

Winter storm warnings were in effect Friday for parts of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the western Dakotas, and a blizzard warning covered the mountains of southwest Colorado.

"It's going to be a heck of a storm," said Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, Colo. "We're expecting significant snowfall in all the mountains of Colorado. Even the valleys are going to see 4-plus inches of snow."

The Utah Avalanche Center on Friday renewed its warning against travel in mountain backcountry, saying up to 3 feet of new snow in places, plus strong wind, had overloaded layers of very weak snow and raised the threat of avalanches.

A Utah avalanche killed two people earlier in the week, and a snow slide in California's Sierra Nevada killed one man Thursday.

In eastern Washington, Spokane reached a snowfall total for the month of 46.2 inches, a record for December, said Laurie Nisbet of the weather service.

Farther west, the weight of snow, ice and water over the past week collapsed the roof of a high school in Olympia, Wash. There was severe water damage but no injuries, fire Lt. Ralph Dunbar said.

Slippery roads and cold have been blamed for 11 deaths this week in Indiana; eight in Wisconsin; five in Ohio; four each in Kentucky, Michigan and Missouri; two in Kansas; and one apiece in Illinois, Oklahoma, Iowa, Massachusetts and West Virginia.

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