Snowstorm blamed for 13 deaths across U.S.

Sunday, December 3, 2006
Members of the Missouri National Guard's 1175th Military Police Company walked past downed tree limbs along a street in North St. Louis checking for power outages Saturday in the aftermath of Thursday's ice storm. (F. Brian Ferguson ~ St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Many areas received more than a foot of snow.

CHICAGO -- Utility crews worked overtime Saturday to restore electrical service to thousands of customers still blacked out by the Midwest's first big snowstorm of the season.

The storm was blamed for at least 13 deaths as it spread ice and deep snow from Texas to Michigan and then blew through the Northeast late Friday and early Saturday. Schools and businesses were closed and hundreds of airline passengers had been stranded by canceled flights.

Trees were blown onto homes and cars, and a big Christmas tree in front of the New Hampshire Statehouse was toppled.

Truck driver David Huwe just got his 18-wheeler and load of frozen food back on the road Saturday after being stuck for more than 12 hours at a rest stop near Princeton, Ill., on Interstate 80, which was blocked by scores of trucks and cars that slid off the icy highway.

"I was supposed to be [in California] Sunday night," Huwe said Saturday morning. He had revised his arrival time and hoped he'd make it by Monday.

Red Cross volunteers at Decatur had helped out some of those stranded I-80 travelers by ordering 100 McDonald's hamburgers, which were then airlifted by the National Guard.

"We had 35 minutes from the time we got the call to the airlift," Deb Helm said. McDonald's "was what was available."

Many areas of Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri got more than a foot of snow, including 16 inches in parts of central Missouri and 17 at Manistee, Mich. Fifteen inches fell as far south as Bartlesville, Okla.

Airlines recovering

Airlines were recovering from the widespread cancellations caused by the storm; delays at Lambert Airport in St. Louis were generally 15 minutes or less Saturday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. There were no measurable delays Saturday at Chicago's two major airports, said Wendy Abrams, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Highways were mostly clear but still had icy spots. "Nobody really should travel unless you absolutely have to get out," Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt said.

Chicago sent out about 170 snow-removal trucks Saturday morning to clear the city's side streets, after clearing main roads Friday.

As the storm moved east, gusty wind blacked out more customers from Tennessee to New York. About 19,000 homes and businesses were still without power Saturday across upstate New York. More than 12,000 waited for power in Michigan. In Pennsylvania, more than 19,000 homes, mostly in the western part of the state, had no electricity, state Emergency Management Agency spokesman Justin Fleming said.

Tornadoes reported

Two tornadoes were reported in Pennsylvania, with one blowing out the windows of Mr. Z's Food Mart in Mountain Top. About a half-dozen people suffered minor injuries, fire officials said.

"The windows were shaking and they just exploded. Everybody was screaming," said Food Mart cashier Breanne Ralston, 17.

Two women were killed in Pennsylvania, one by a falling tree and another by a wind-blown section of roof, and another falling tree landed on a house and killed one person in New York, authorities said. Two men over the age of 60 died after shoveling snow in Wisconsin, and an 87-year-old woman died in the St. Louis areas in a house fire that started when an ice-laden tree limb fell on a power line, fire officials said.

Storm-related traffic deaths included two in Missouri, one in Kansas and one in Oklahoma. Near Paducah, Texas, a vehicle carrying high school girls' basketball players overturned on an icy highway, killing a 14-year-old player and injuring seven other people.

In Illinois, a woman died after being struck by a snow plow that was backing up, and a 67-year-old man collapsed and died after trimming tree limbs with a hand saw.

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