Storm drops snow, ice across Midwest, into New England

With the temperature near 10 below zero, a frost-coated horse stands in a field as the sun rises on Gore Hill near Great Falls, Mont., on Wednesday.

Photos by The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 6, 2005 at 12:27 a.m.
Joe Carrone of Columbia, Mo., waits for a tow truck to pull his pickup truck out of about 4 feet of water Wednesday near Columbia, Mo. Carrone's girlfriend was rescued from the truck by firefighters after she drove the truck into a ditch while crossing standing water.
A huge storm spread a smear of ice and snow from the Rockies to the Northeast on Wednesday, snarling highway and airline traffic, causing the mercury to plummet in the Midwest and snapping power lines serving thousands of homes and businesses.
The snow, sleet and freezing rain were part of a mass of cold air that dropped the temperature to a Jan. 5 record low of 39 below zero in Grand Forks, N.D. Embarrass, Minn., hit 43 below, the National Weather Service said.
School closings were reported from New Mexico to New Jersey, and hundreds of travelers were stranded across the country.
"People have been sleeping on the floor. Nobody has had anything to eat. It's filthy in here," said Ken Wagner, who was stuck in Denver's Greyhound station for more than 15 hours when the company decided to keep its buses off the icy roads.
As much as an inch of ice coated the Kansas City area, and layers a half-inch-thick glazed highways in Iowa, Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle, causing numerous traffic accidents.
Snow was scattered from the Colorado Rockies - which got 20 inches in just 12 hours at Aspen - across the Plains and Great Lakes all the way into parts of New England, where 6 inches was possible by this morning, the weather service said. The same system had dumped as much as 3 feet in the mountains around Los Angeles earlier in the week.
"We got dumped on," said Amy Williams, who was closing her Avalanche Coffee House in Colorado to go skiing in the fresh powder. "The snow is just outrageously amazing."
Weather-related traffic deaths included five in Oklahoma, and one each in Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. Two traffic deaths in Michigan were probably the result of the storm, authorities said.
A search resumed Wednesday for two people who had been in a car that was found washed into a creek in Missouri, and one man still was missing after an Arizona flash flood that killed another man.
Snow accumulations of nearly a foot were possible by today in parts of Michigan, South Dakota, and Iowa, where wind gusting to 25 mph caused drifting, meteorologists said.
Truckers pulled into the Sapp Bros. truck stop at Council Bluffs, Iowa, to check weather reports and to buy groceries "and lots and lots of windshield fluid. We're almost out of it," said Nancy West, a manager.
Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma were hardest hit by ice.
Westar Energy in Kansas said it could be as long as a week before it can restore service to about 84,000 customers. Tens of thousands more customers were without power in the area.
People rushed to buy groceries and anything to keep warm.
"Heaters, generators, anything that doesn't have to be plugged in," said Doby Webb, assistant manager at a farm and home supply store in Enid, Okla.
Airlines canceled 590 departures and arrivals Wednesday at O'Hare International Airport, and other flights were delayed as much as three hours, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Kristen Cabanban. Kansas City, Mo., and Des Moines, Iowa, also had delays and cancellations.
Amid the travel problems and power outages, some people welcomed the storm.
"I didn't think the snow would ever come," said Alex Schulte, a 14-year-old snowboarding enthusiast in Sioux Falls, S.D., which got its first big storm of the season at 4.5 inches. "Snow is snow. I don't know what to say about it, but I love it."
Even grown-ups went AWOL to hit the ski slopes.
"The work ethic here is good, but it's standard that if it's a good powder day, it's a good excuse for anyone to take a day off," said Amy Semler, owner of A Mom's Day Off baby-sitting service at Aspen, Colo.

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