Video: One nation, under snow

  1. Transcript of: One nation, under snow

    WILLIAMS: Good evening.

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Tonight there is snow over 39 percent of the land mass of the continental United States . In some places the snow dips way down to the south. It snowed briefly in Atlanta today, where it never got above freezing. Ten degrees in Detroit , seven in Chicago , minus-14 in Minneapolis , where the temperature is the least of their worries. They don't scare easily in winter in Minnesota , in part because they get to watch their Vikings indoors. That is, until yesterday. This was downright scary, 17 inches of snowfall just too much for the inflatable roof at the Metrodome . The roof gave way, snow on the field. The game was moved to Detroit tonight. And that's just part of the story in this blast of weather that has crushed some records going back 100 years. Our own Kevin Tibbles starts us off tonight at the former dome in Minneapolis . Kevin , good evening.

    KEVIN TIBBLES reporting: Brian , this darkened hulk of a building behind me here was supposed to be teeming with football fans tonight. Instead, weather woes even in Minnesota . The big dig out after the big whiteout.

    Unidentified Woman #1: Well, we were kind of stuck inside yesterday, and we refuse to be stuck today.

    TIBBLES: Seventeen inches of snow in Minneapolis , the city scrambled to find places to put it. Motorists struggled to pry their cars out of it.

    Unidentified Man #1: Just digging people out, get home, watch football.

    TIBBLES: That football game between the Vikings and the New York Giants was suppose to be played here in Minneapolis . That is, until the Metrodome 's inflatable roof failed under the weight of the snow, tearing three massive holes in the Teflon -coated cover and collapsing it like a souffle.

    Mr. STEVE MAKI (Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission): We used our normal procedures to melt snow, including using hot air, and then ultimately putting people on the roof with fire hoses and hot water to wash it off. The conditions got too bad and we were -- weren't making any headway.

    TIBBLES: In Detroit , where the game was shifted, fans are being offered free tickets. Problem is there's record snowfall there, too. In Indiana , whiteouts and treacherous driving left 70 people stranded in vehicles overnight.

    Unidentified Man #2: Looks like it's all clear, and then all of a sudden you try and step on the brakes and you're all over the road.

    Mr. MIKE SEIDEL (The Weather Channel): Here in Cleveland , heavy lake-effect snow combined with 40 mile and hour wind gusts have led to virtual whiteouts in some spots. The storm is moving out, but the deep freeze is moving east.

    TIBBLES: Chicago's O'Hare Airport struggled to recover from more than 1,000 canceled flights on Sunday as high winds whipped the Windy City from Lake Michigan and the mercury plummeted. Outside Kansas , a broken water main led to an instant ice palace.

    Mr. JASYN RANDAZZO (Homeowner): I get a lot of questions like, 'Oh, what happened? What's going on ?' You know, 'How'd you do that?' I'm like, 'It wasn't me.'

    TIBBLES: And as Old Man Winter trudges east, he's leaving his mark. Brian , Minneapolis says it expects to lose some $9 million because yesterday's game had to be moved. And speaking of moving, the snow has moved east and the

    deep freeze has moved in. Brian: Good night for you to get inside, watch some football. Kevin Tibbles in Minneapolis , the Twin Cities , for us tonight.

    WILLIAMS:

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 12/13/2010 9:30:29 PM ET 2010-12-14T02:30:29

Heavy snow trapped dozens of travelers on at least two Indiana highways on Monday, while Chicago and other parts of the Midwest saw subzero wind chills, school closures and massive cleanup following a weekend storm.

The heavy lake effect snow in northern Indiana was part of a slow-moving storm that has been crawling across the Midwest since Friday night.

At least 15 deaths have been attributed to the storm, which dumped nearly two feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin before moving into Michigan and Indiana. On Monday, it stretched farther east, with snow in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

In northwest Indiana, up to 16 inches of lake effect snow fell in some areas around LaPorte. Lake effect snow develops when cold air rushes over the warmer water in Lake Michigan.

Image: Snowy road conditions in Indiana
Scott M Bort  /  Post Tribune via AP
This car was among the dozens that got stuck in northwest Indiana on Monday.

Kate Ergang wasn't worried when two jackknifed semi-tractors trapped her and a friend on an Indiana highway in a blizzard. They had eaten dinner already and had blankets and pillows in the car. They talked, listened to their iPods and dozed off.

But the May college graduate had a few minutes of panic Monday morning when she woke and realized that nearly 12 hours later, they were still in the same spot.

More than 100 vehicles were stuck Monday on Indiana's snow-covered highways. Strong winds and blowing snow hampered snow plow drivers' efforts to free them, but all motorists had been safely rescued by Monday evening, said Amy Bluhm, a dispatcher with LaPorte County 911.

Up to 16 inches of snow fell in northwest Indiana, where 70 drivers got stuck in drifts on a section of Indiana 2 in the Valparaiso area.

Ergang and her friend, Allison Frank, were among an unknown number trapped on U.S. 30.

They were driving home to Crown Point on Sunday after visiting friends in central Indiana. All was fine until they reached Wanatah, about 35 miles southwest of South Bend.

"It was a whiteout. It was like a tornado of snow," Ergang said.

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Unable to see if a car was in front of her, Frank would nudge her 2000 Ford Focus slowly forward, stopping periodically, before all traffic came to a standstill about 7 p.m. because the semi-tractors had jackknifed at an interchange east of Valparaiso. Frank turned the car off, and the two made beds in their seats with the blankets and pillows.

In the morning, they flagged down a police officer headed the opposite way who told them a 7-mile stretch of the highway had been closed. The road to Wanatah opened a little later, about 6:30 a.m., and they headed back there. They and dozens of other motorists spent the next three hours in a service station convenience store, where they could use the bathroom and buy some food.

"It was definitely a relief to get out of the car and get in the warmth and talk with somebody else about what was going on," Ergang said when reached by phone later at home.

Indiana state police Lt. Lou Brown said some people made the situation worse by driving on roads that were closed or abandoning vehicles that got stuck.

"People would get into a snowdrift and couldn't go anywhere so they'd just leave the vehicle to get out of the weather," he said. "It just plugs things up and then snow plows can't get around them."

Truck drivers stopped at the Junction City Restaurant in Rolling Prairie near the intersection of U.S. 20 and Indiana 2 for lunch, hoping the conditions would improve. They said driving was particularly difficult in areas where wind was blowing across open farmland, sweeping the snow onto highways and making it hard to see.

Three retirees who drove 2 miles to meet at the diner for lunch said even their trip was difficult.

"We couldn't even see on the way over," said Bill Sullivan, 73, of Rolling Prairie. "It was blinding. You can't see nothing. We're going home and getting out of this crap."

In Chicago, thousands of travelers returned to O'Hare and Midway airports Monday after some 1,600 cancellations on Sunday', but getting out was still a problem.

Airlines cancelled 75 flights at O'Hare before 9 a.m. (CST), Karen Pride, Director of Media Relations of the Chicago Department of Aviation, told msnbc.com. More than 1,370 flights there were cancelled on Sunday.

Chicago's Midway Airport, which saw 300 cancellations on Sunday, had seen no delays before 9 a.m. Monday, she said.

The winter weather, "with dangerously cold wind chills in some areas," was expected to continue throughout the Midwest on Monday, the Weather Channel reported. While the high winds were expected to die down during the week, the intense cold was set to linger in much of the Missouri and Mississippi Valleys, it reported.

"With the snow, pretty much the worst of it is over, but we're going to get cold temperatures through Tuesday," said Jim Taggart, National Weather Service meteorologist in Chanhassen, Minn.

The weather the region is experiencing is what it "normally would get in January," Taggart said.

The Western Plains, in contrast, would see warmer weather in the coming days, The Weather Channel reported.

Metrodome collapse
In Minneapolis, heavy snow caused the inflatable roof of the Metrodome to collapse Sunday. Video inside the stadium aired by Fox Sports showed the inflatable Teflon roof sagging before it tore open, dumping massive amounts of snow across one end of the playing field.

No one was hurt, but the Vikings' game against the New York Giants had to be moved to Detroit's Ford Field. The day of the game had already been pushed back from Sunday to Monday because the storm kept the Giants from reaching Minneapolis on time. Stadium officials were trying to repair the roof in time for the Vikings' next home game, Dec. 20 against Chicago.

In the Chicago area, only a few inches of snow fell, but wind gusts of up to nearly 50 mph blew the roof off a building at Navy Pier and sent waves from Lake Michigan crashing onto Lake Shore Drive.

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'The worst flying experience'
Officials at O'Hare set up about 200 cots and provided amenity kits containing toothpaste and toothbrushes for stranded travelers, Pride said.

Jordan Ledoux was traveling back to Portland after a visit to Houston when he ended up stuck at O'Hare. He said it was possible he might not get home until Tuesday.

"This is the worst flying experience I've ever had," he told WBBM-TV.

Major highways in several states were closed due to poor driving conditions and accidents.

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Seven vehicles crashed on Interstate 94 about 50 miles west of Milwaukee, prompting authorities to close the westbound lanes. A vehicle lost control on an ice-covered road and slammed into a tree in southeastern Wisconsin, killing 21-year-old Alejandria Abaunza of Chicago and injuring two other people inside.

Story: Worst of heavy rains in Northwest is over

Eight people in four states, including Indiana, have died in traffic accidents related to the storm, and a 79-year-old man snow-blowing the end of his driveway in western Wisconsin was killed when a plow backed into him.

Five more died after shoveling or blowing snow, and Kennenth Swanson, 58, of rural River Falls, Wis., died when a metal shed collapsed from the heavy snow, pinning him under debris and about 3 feet of snow.

Snow also blanketed Tennessee, where up to 4 inches was reported. WSMV-TV in Nashville said the weather forced several communities to cancel Christmas parades planned for Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photos: Winter storm hits hard

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  1. The cold front reached Philadelphia, Pa., on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Morning temperatures were below freezing. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Sandi Kintzel clears snow from her car during the blustery, wintry weather in Buffalo, N.Y., on Tuesday. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Wind gusts upwards of 40 miles per hour blew waves onto the shore and temperatures in the low teens quickly turned the spray to ice on Monday in Chicago. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A woman waits for a bus Monday in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The wintry weather, with blowing snow that severely limited visibility, wreaked havoc on air and road travel. (Tony Dejak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Traffic makes it's way through blowing snow along Broadway in Merrillville, Ind., on Monday. Snow was drifting along roadways in northwest Indiana, causing visibility problems and icy conditions. (Jeffrey D. Nicholls / Post-Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ryan Shaw, left, and Jeff Messenger remove snow from a driveway in Bowling Green, Ohio, on Monday. (JD Pooley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. High winds combined with icy roads could have been a factor in this accident near Maysville, Ky., on Monday. (Terry Prather / The Ledger Independent via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A pedestrian shields himself from snow flurries on Monday in downtown Atlanta, Ga. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Robert Metzner, who said he was homeless, rides his bike in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Monday. Metzner says he has been homeless for almost a year. "It wasn't bad during the summer, but now it's getting a little rough," he said. (Carrie Cochran / The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Abby Watkins laughs at her friend Hope Gregory after Hope got a face full of snow while sledding in Bowling Green, Ky., on Sunday. (Joe Imel / Daily News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Hannah Kissel, left, and her brother, Ethan, find a new way to utilize their backyard trampoline in St. Joseph, Ind., on Sunday. (Denny Simmons / The Evansville Courier & Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Snow falls onto the field from a hole in the collapsed roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday. The inflatable roof of the Metrodome collapsed after a snowstorm dumped 17 inches on the city. No one was hurt, but the roof failure sent the NFL scrambling to find a new venue for the Vikings' game against the New York Giants. (Ann Heisenfelt / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Ice covers the railings near the lighthouse tower behind the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee, Wis., on Sunday. (Kristyna Wentz-Graff / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Patrick Keyes and Jessa Sebelko work to dig out Sebelko's car from a snowbank in Eau Claire, Wis., on Sunday. Eau Claire received 22 inches of snow. (Steve Kinderman / Eau Claire Leader-Telegram) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Michael Stevens uses a snow blower to remove snow around a neighbor's car in Winona, Minn., on Sunday. (Andrew Link / Winona Daily News) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Dan Holl, of the West Bend Department of Public Works, uses a makeshift scraper to clear snow from a stop light in West Bend, Wis., on Sunday. He and other workers had been up since Saturday night plowing several inches of snow that fell in the area. (Rick Wood / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Larry Myer shovels out his driveway in Minneapolis. (Tom Dahlin / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Waves pummel the lighthouse on Lake Michigan Sunday, Dec. 12, in Milwaukee. (Kristyna Wentz-Graff / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Margaret Patchin, of Traverse City, Mich., uses snow shoes and poles to walk along Barlow Street, Dec. 12, as she returns home after having breakfast with a group at Brady's Bar in downtown Traverse City. "Church got canceled but there are some of us who don't like to cancel the breakfast afterward," Patchin said. "This gives me a chance to walk it off," she explained. (Keith King / Traverse City Record-Eagle) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Snow falls Sunday, Dec. 12, in downtown Traverse City, Mich. (Keith King / Traverse City Record-Eagle) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A car with a Christmas tree on top travels on a snow-covered road, Dec. 12, in Traverse City, Mich. (Keith King / Traverse City Record-Eagle) Back to slideshow navigation
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Explainer: Cold can't stop star gazing, wedding, surfing

  • View images sent by readers of the cold front across the Midwest, South and Northeast.

  • Submitted by Matt Freechack
    Submitted by Matt Freechack

    I live in Grand Rapids, Mich., but traveled to Lake Odessa, Mich. (20 miles east of Grand Rapids) to take pictures due to the lack of city lights in that area. I wasn't disappointed. By that time, the moon had set and the sky was completely dark, save for the stars. Meteors were flying all over the sky the entire time that I was out there. I have never seen so many. It was part of the reason that I stayed out for nearly two hours in 4 degree weather.

    I lost feeling in my toes after the first hour (which made the drive home interesting to say the least). The first picture was taken with an exposure time of 803.8 seconds looking north at 3:20 am. Each time I look at this picture, I seem to see more of them. I have found a total of 18 meteors in this shot.

    The second picture was taken shortly before dawn once I got home to Grand Rapids. The picture is the view facing south. Venus is the bright object on the left. The meteor is on the top right corner.

  • Submitted by Gary Barthe
    Hard Freeze in Florida: Ice on thermometer box at the University of Florida field plot at Lake Alfred; 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 14.

    Irrigation water was run overnight in order to ice over the citrus trees and moderate the sub-freezing temperatures.

  • Very low visibility on the roads in Boone, N.C., with extremely high winds and white out conditions!

  • Submitted by Daryl Sager

    St. Paul, Minn., 22 inches in the driveway!

  • Submitted by Tom Dawson

    Jon and Jen Beaudry were married in St. Michael, Minn., during a bizzard on Saturday afternoon that dumped 20+ inches of snow in certain areas of the state.

    Here the bride, boots and all, and groom can be seen fighting the elements as they make their way to the car with personal attendant, Maggie McLoone.

  • Submitted by Tim Mlodozyniec

    What to do in December when there's a -25 degree wind chill factor outside? Go surfing! At least that's what Peter Steltz, a University of Minnesota-Duluth student, considers a good time, doing so on Monday along Lake Superior.

    Peter talked with me for a minute before he had to jump back in the lake, where it was much warmer. He said there weren't many more days left for surfing, as the shoreline was going to ice up soon. It looked pretty icy to me! After shooting a few more photos, I had to retreat to my nice warm truck.

  • Submitted by Adam Simms
    Recent Midwest snow storm.  Snow covered picnic table and porch.
  • Submitted by Evan Bath

    Snow storm clean up in Lacrosse, Wis., on Sunday.

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