Snowstorm ices roads, grounds flights in Chicago

CLEVELAND -- A powerful winter storm blasted large swaths of the Midwest and Northeast with snow and freezing rain Saturday, grounding flights and stranding vehicles along icy roads.

Nearly a foot of snow fell in some Midwest states, and more than half of the morning flights at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport were canceled or delayed. Ten inches at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport forced the cancellation of about 100 flights, Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department reported.

"This is the biggest one of the season," said Brian Mitchell, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Cleveland. "We didn't have this kind of snow in the last couple of months."

Motorists in Youngstown and Warren, in northeast Ohio, slowed to a crawl to avoid spinouts or wrecks. Road crews were put on 12-hour shifts, and were doing all they could to keep pace with the new snow, said Theresa Pollick, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

"Now it becomes a plow-and-salt game," Pollick said. "It's basically keeping up with the precipitation."

Freezing rain in Indiana caused five salt trucks to slide into ditches Saturday as they worked to remove ice from roads. Tow trucks stopped responding to accidents because they were sliding off icy roads when they tried to pull vehicles from ditches, the Star Press of Muncie reported.

"It's bad. You can't even stand up on the roads," said Duke Campbell, the highway manager for Indiana's Delaware County.

In Ohio's Sandusky Bay, a freighter heading to coal docks became trapped and had to wait for a Coast Guard cutter to clear a path through the ice.

In the Chicago suburb of Darien, a woman was killed when her vehicle spun out of control in the heavy snow, struck a dividing wall and then was hit by another vehicle.

In Michigan, at least 8 inches of snow fell on the southern Lower Peninsula by Saturday afternoon. AAA said it had responded to about 2,500 calls for road service by 4 p.m., spokeswoman Nancy Cain said. Many calls were for vehicles stuck in snowdrifts, she said.

Light snow started falling in New England Saturday night, with 3 to 7 inches forecast to fall in Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island. A wintry mix was making travel treacherous in most of northern New Jersey Saturday night.

Snow that fell Saturday in New York City was expected to be followed by a midweek spell of subfreezing temperatures, as cold air moves south from Canada, said weather service meteorologist John Cristantello. Temperatures were expected to dip from the upper or mid-20s on Wednesday to the teens and even single digits Thursday and Friday.

Washington state continued to dry out Saturday after heavy rains and melting snow flooded parts of the Pacific Northwest earlier in the week. Many roads reopened, but Gov. Chris Gregoire said an estimated $125 million in damage was done to roads and state property.

State Patrol Trooper Craig Sahlinger said the bodies of a man and woman were found Saturday in a car that ran off a road and flipped into a water-filled ditch in Lewis County -- possibly as a result of the flooding.