Massive snowstorm blasts most of United States

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A photo taken early on Tuesday of the blizzard that hit the Chicago area.
Image: Shankarnikhil88.
The blizzard, when snow fell at the rate of 3–4 inches per hour.
Image: Shankarnikhil88.

A massive winter storm has hit most of the United States with large amounts of blowing snow, rain, severe thunderstorms, and high winds, causing blizzard conditions in many areas, and hitting places like Chicago, Illinois with snow at the rate of 3–4 inches (7.6–10.2 cm) per hour. The massive storm stretches from New Mexico to Maine.

Chicago received 19.5 inches (45.53 cm) of snow by Wednesday morning, and winds reached speeds of 50 mph (80.46 kph) in the night. Other places such as Buffalo, New York could get up to eight inches (20 cm) of snow by Thursday. The storm brought badly needed rain to areas in the United States south, but also hit the Florida panhandle with a tornado watch.

Chicago and nearby areas also experienced thundersnow at times. Thundersnow is a type of thunderstorm with snow falling instead of rain.

Many power failures occurred in hard-hit areas, due to icing, which coated power lines with thick ice. Up to 18,000 customers in Indiana lost power, and almost 80,000 ComEd customers in the Chicago area were without power. Thousands in Oklahoma also lost power.

"If you don't have to travel, don't do it. If you can stay home, do it. You might get in. You won't get back," Kansas governor Sam Brownback advised.

In Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn activated over 500 National Guard troops, and Missouri activated 850 Guard troops. Over 20% of flights in the United States were grounded due to bad weather, and Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport had to close Tuesday morning due to an ice storm.

The snowstorm may affect 100 million Americans, roughly a third of that country's population. "It's unusual for a storm to affect such a broad swath of the country and so many big cities," said :The Weather Channel meteorologist Mark Ressler. The snowfall rate in some places was "incredibly heavy," he added.

In Chicago, where snow was heaviest, 2,200 flights were cancelled at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Chicago Midway Airport, the city's smaller airport, suspended flight operations. Classes within the Chicago Public School system were cancelled for Wednesday, the first time since 1999. The City of Chicago also obtained fifty snowmobiles to reach stranded residents.

The National Weather Service advised, "Do not travel! Stay inside!"

Dave Bursten, First Sgt. of the Indiana State Police, seemed resigned.

"There's only so much man can do to control Mother Nature, and ultimately Mother Nature will always win," he said.