Travelers didn't plan on starting their long Thanksgiving weekend stuck in airports or driving on slippery roads, but then again they hadn't figured on snow — and a lot of it.
A blanket of white stretched from the Great Lakes region to the central Plains. Accumulations from the Midwest's first major snowfall of the season ranged from 4 inches in southeastern Iowa to 9 inches in southern Michigan, the National Weather Service (search) said. High winds and thunderstorms also worked their way across the region Wednesday.
The snow caused flight cancelations and delays as long as three hours at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (search) and up to two hours at the city's other airport, Midway.
Marc Hendrickson of Seattle gave up on flying after O'Hare canceled his connecting flight to Madison, Wis. He bought a bus ticket to meet his girlfriend in Wisconsin and the two planned to drive to Dubuque, Iowa, for the holiday.
"I just want to get there — that's my main concern," Hendrickson said.
Bad weather in Michigan forced Northwest Airlines (search) to cancel 37 flights, 22 of them into or out of Detroit. At Lansing's Capital City Airport, a Northwest Airlines jet carrying 87 passengers and four crew slid off a snow-slicked runway during landing. No one was injured.
Gusts of 57 mph were recorded near Champaign, Ill. High winds along Interstate 74 near Greensburg, Ind., caused a semitrailer to overturn, leaving the highway strewn with debris.
Indiana had also had severe thunderstorms and heavy snow. The rain fell across the south, the snow in the north.
"We've had quite a few crashes — slideoffs, fender-benders and people ending up in ditches, but no injuries," said Indiana State Trooper Tom Szymanski.
Elsewhere in the country, highways were bumper-to-bumper in Georgia as drivers faced thunderstorms and a threat of tornadoes, part of a system that killed at least four people elsewhere in the South.
"We're seeing some hectic and chaotic driving situations — the road rage, the rear endings, people not allowing other motorists to change lanes," said Georgia State Patrol Trooper Larry Schnall.
At the Atlanta airport, many flights were delayed and a few were diverted because of the severe weather in the region.
The weather also disrupted travel in the Northeast. Airports in New York City, Boston and Newark, N.J., were experiencing delays up to two hours because of rain.
Drivers cruised through Pennsylvania Turnpike toll plazas for free Wednesday after toll collectors and maintenance workers went on strike hours before the holiday rush. Turnpike managers began collecting tolls early Thanksgiving Day.
A survey conducted for AAA by the Travel Industry Association of America (search) said 30.6 million people, or 3 percent more than in 2003, were expected to hit the road during the holiday weekend, even with gasoline prices nearly one-third higher than a year ago. An additional 6.6 million were likely to travel by plane, train or bus.