Midwest, Northeast Storms Leave Two Dead in Road Accidents

As much as a foot of snow fell from the Plains across the Midwest on Saturday, snarling road and air travel and leaving at least two people dead, as the second big winter storm in a week barreled through on its way to New England.

Tens of thousands of people still lacked electricity after the first storm slammed Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri earlier in the week. That storm was blamed for at least 38 deaths, mostly in traffic accidents.

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Winter storm warnings and watches extended Saturday from Missouri across parts of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, the National Weather Service said. As much as 15 inches of snow was forecast in parts of southern Michigan, with 10 inches possible in Detroit.

Snow started falling early in the afternoon in Pittsburgh, accumulating to about an inch before tapering off. Light rain and freezing rain took over later.

"We'll have little bit of everything before the night is over," said Bill Drzal, a Weather Service meteorologist in Pittsburgh.

Areas to the north and east of the city could see as much as 12 inches through Sunday night, according to the Weather Service.

More than 200 flights were canceled because of the weather Saturday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, one of the nation's busiest, and all other flights were delayed an hour, said Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Gregg Cunningham.

Road travel also became tricky in northeastern Illinois, including Chicago's suburbs, where officials reported spinouts and cars in ditches.

"It's coming down steady," said Mike Claffey, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

In Michigan, authorities said the weather claimed the life of a woman in a three-vehicle crash on slippery U.S. 23 in Monroe County. The Ann Arbor News reported that 24-year-old Ralitza Kuncheva of Dundee was riding in a car that crashed Saturday in Milan Township, about 35 miles southeast of Detroit. Authorities say the driver lost control of the car and spun into oncoming traffic.

In southern Wisconsin, police in Waukesha said road conditions brought on by up to 5 inches of snow figured in a two-car accident that left a 51-year-old woman dead and three others injured. Police did not immediately release her name.

Residents across New England packed stores to stock up before getting slammed. The winter weather earlier in the week caught many people unawares, stranding commuters and school buses as it made some of the nation's busiest highways impassable.

Flakes also fell in traditionally snow-prone Buffalo, N.Y. Accumulations of a foot or more were predicted for much of New York state.

Concern about the approaching storm led the University of Connecticut to cancel Sunday's winter commencement ceremony. About 850 undergraduates had expected to receive diplomas Sunday, but school spokesman Richard Veilleux said officials were concerned about the safety of the students and their families and other guests on slippery roads.

Freezing rain was the culprit in the Plains earlier in the week, coating streets, windshields, tree limbs and power lines with ice as thick as an inch in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Oklahoma, hardest hit by the earlier storm, got only cold, light rain early Saturday that turned into just a few inches of snow. Neighboring Kansas, however, had as much as a foot Saturday morning, and the Highway Patrol reported Interstate 70 in central Kansas was snow-packed.

"We've had no fatalities or pileups, but we have numerous slideoffs," said Mary Beth Anderson, a patrol dispatcher. "I don't think there are a lot of travelers, just the ones who have to get out and go to work."

More than 2,300 people were in Kansas shelters Saturday because of the power failures and the fresh snow, said Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the state Adjutant General's Department.

At the height of the last storm, a million customers in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri were blacked out. By Saturday morning, utilities in the three states reported 270,000 customers still without electricity.

Officials in Oklahoma had worried the new snow could hamper power restoration efforts, but it turned out not to be a problem.

"The first several days, crews were working on emergency restoration and getting the backbone of the structure up — the main feeders and transmission lines," said Stan Whiteford, a spokesman for Public Service Co. of Oklahoma. "Now they're really getting into the neighborhoods. The customers are coming on in bigger chunks."