(CBS/AP) A winter storm packing snow, freezing rain and biting wind cut power to thousands of customers Friday, disrupted travel and gave schoolchildren from Iowa to New England an early start on their holiday break.
The storm dropped as much as 10 inches of snow in parts of Illinois before moving on to blast the Northeast, reported Early Show weather anchor Dave Price.
It left a quarter million people without power in the Midwest Friday night, Price reported.
"One thing about it, you're going to have a white Christmas this year," said Lee Longdyke, as he shoveled a sidewalk in Pontiac, Mich., for the third time Friday morning.
More than 300 flights were canceled at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, and more than 600 at three New York City-area airports.
Runways at Milwaukee's airport were closed for much of the morning because snowplows could not keep up with "whiteout conditions," airport spokeswoman Pat Rowe said.
Snowfall affected a large region, but the worst of the ice storm and resulting power outages - was in a band across northern Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Power companies reported 60,000 customers in Illinois without service Friday, more than 35,000 in Ohio, and a whopping 180,000 in Indiana, where the area around Fort Wayne was particularly hard-hit.
"When you combine ice, which is an electric utility's nightmare, with wind, you've got some serious issues," said Indiana Michigan Power spokesman Mark Brian.
Freezing rain was also a problem in Iowa, but authorities there said only scattered power outages were reported, because there wasn't much wind to bring ice-laden tree limbs down onto power lines.
"Mud, slush and everything: it's just been a battle," Chicago snowplow driver Mike Fabian told Price during a 13-hour shift, adding, "We own the rest of America when it comes to battling snow."
Up to a foot of snow was forecast across much of Michigan, and some areas reported wind gusts of up to 25 to 30 mph. Nearly 8 inches of snow had fallen in Detroit by midafternoon.
Schools were closed across the region. The Toledo Zoo was forced to cancel its holiday season light show for Friday evening.
The storm has also been a bane to retailers, Price reported. About 12 percent of all holiday shopping is normally done on the weekend before Christmas. Many business owners say that the lost business in this critical period simply won't be made up later.
In the Northeast, hard hit by last week's ice storm, snowfall totals of up to 15 inches were forecast. Biting, wind-whipped snow began late morning in White Plains, N.Y.
"I thought I had enough on," said Gloria D'Arce, 29, as she tried to keep out of the wind while waiting for a light to change. "But this is coming sideways, right in my face. I'm, like, two blocks from my car and I feel like I'm not going to make it."
The evening rush-hour jam began a few hours early in Rochester, N.Y., where 6 inches of snow had already fallen by midafternoon.
Snow totals for New York City were expected to top out around 5 inches, reports WCBS-2 in New York.
Fearing afternoon traffic jams, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked nonessential state employees Friday morning to stay home.
In New Hampshire, several thousand homes and businesses were still in the dark more than a week after last week's storm. As authorities prepared for the new storm, Gov. John Lynch said the state hoped to get utilities to improve their communication with customers in the future.
"I certainly understand that people in New Hampshire are cold, they're tired, and in many cases they're frustrated, especially with Christmas coming," Lynch said.
On Wednesday and Thursday, wintry weather had made life miserable in parts of the West. A record December snowfall of 3.6 inches was recorded in Las Vegas, while in Spokane, Wash., nearly 2 feet of snow fell and more was in the forecast for this weekend.
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