Image: Truck towed out of snow in Canada
Glenn Ogilvie  /  AP
This truck was among the dozens of vehicles stranded in Sarnia, Ontario, when a blizzard hit Sunday and Monday. Help for most of the 300 travelers arrived only Tuesday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 12/14/2010 6:48:22 PM ET 2010-12-14T23:48:22

All five of the Great Lakes were generating more snow across the Midwest on Tuesday while the Northeast saw below-freezing temperatures, parts of the South were about 20 degrees colder than normal and Canadian military helicopters helped dozens of travelers stranded on a highway in Ontario.

Nearly 180 of the estimated 300 people trapped in their vehicles on Highway 402 near Sarnia, Ontario, had been rescued by buses and military helicopters, Canadian officials said. Ontario Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley said he had no reports of deaths or injuries among the stranded.

Colin Steward spent 25 hours stuck in his car, napping, phoning relatives and updating Facebook from his BlackBerry, the 50-year-old said Tuesday in a phone interview from his car.

"What can I do?," he said. "I'm not impressed — it's Canada."

Many people stayed with their vehicles, which were awaiting snow plows and tow trucks. While the sun appeaared Tuesday in Sarnia, located about 65 miles northeast of Detroit, more snow was expected and it felt like around zero degrees due to the wind chill.

In the U.S., road travel remained hazardous in the Great Lakes region, and grade schools as well as colleges saw disruptions.

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Gusty winds across the Great Lakes are stirring up the lake effect again, and the skies could dump an additional 1-2 feet of snow on parts of Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, the Weather Channel said, adding that the winds should die down by Wednesday afternoon.

Lake-effect snow is generated when cold air whips up storm clouds off the warmer Great Lakes.

Forecasters said temperatures would likely reach highs in the teens in the Upper Midwest and the 50s in southern Florida on Tuesday. Lows were forecasted to be as frigid as -27 in North Dakota and in the low 30s in Florida.

In northern Ohio, the wintry blast created risky driving conditions and pushed some university exams to Christmas week.

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In Cleveland, commuters walking on snow-encrusted sidewalks clutched hats and tugged scarves tightly against the windy onslaught. As much as 9 more inches could fall before a winter storm warning expires Wednesday morning.

Up to two feet of snow has already fallen in parts of the traditional snow belt east of Cleveland.

Classes were canceled at Cleveland State University and Tuesday's exams were rescheduled for Christmas week.

Kent State University canceled main-campus classes Tuesday, also delaying some finals.

The Midwest has seen bursts of snow since Friday night.

On Monday, more than 100 vehicles were stuck on snow-covered highways in northern Indiana.

At least 16 deaths in the Midwest have been attributed to the storm, which dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin before moving into Michigan and Indiana.

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.

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"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."

Along with the wind and snow, the upper Midwest was gripped by frigid temperatures brought by arctic air that swept in behind the storm. Wind chills were below zero in many places Monday.

The 12-degree temperature didn't stop hundreds of fans from lining up hours before free tickets to Monday night's football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants became available at 9 a.m. at Ford Field. The game was moved to Detroit after the Minneapolis Metrodome's inflated roof collapsed Sunday under the weight of heavy snow. The Lions said about 30,000 tickets were distributed before 11 a.m.

In Minneapolis, crews began inspecting the roof with hopes of getting it repaired in time for the Vikings' next home game, Dec. 20 against Chicago.

"Everyone is going as quickly as they can and as safely as they can," said Pat Milan, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission that operates the Metrodome.

Also Monday, ice-clogged locks and dams along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers slowed commercial barge traffic. Barge tows required 20 hours instead of the usual 90 minutes to pass through the Mississippi River lock near Canton, Missouri.

On Sunday, Jessica Porter went into labor at home in East Jordan, Mich., forcing her and her husband, Greg, to begin a treacherous trek of about 50 miles to a hospital in Traverse City.

When blizzard conditions and slick roads halted the trip, they pulled to the side of the road in Elk Rapids and called authorities. Village police arrived and Officer Michael Courson helped deliver baby Bradley in the car.

"That was our only option," Greg Porter told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. "The little one decided that he couldn't wait any longer. He's got a heck of a story to tell."

Northeast: Snow along coast?
In western New York, dozens of schools were closed as the storm sent the region into a deep freeze.

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About 20 inches of snow fell in Perrysburg, near Lake Erie. Rochester got 10 inches, with up to a foot more possible by Thursday. Winds gusted between 25 mph to 35 mph in some areas along New York's Lake Erie.

NBC's Al Roker reported from Dunkirk, N.Y., that 35-mph winds off Lake Erie made it feel like below zero.

For the morning commute in Pittsburgh, the temperature was 12 degrees, with winds that made it feel like 4 below zero. The city saw snow on Monday and could get six inches on Tuesday.

The East Coast might not be spared from the snow, either. Though uncertain at this point, a snowstorm could track up the East Coast this weekend, unless the system instead heads straight out to sea.

Video: TODAY’s Al Roker provides national forecast

South: Single digits
Parts of Alabama and Georgia, including Atlanta, were hovering just above zero degrees, while South Florida saw temperatures about 20 degrees colder than normal.

Dozens of helicopters were being used on Florida's valuable and sensitive crops, an unusual approach by farmers worried that an uncommon freeze could wipe out their harvests.

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The choppers hover low over fields to push warmer air closer to the plants — and, the farmers hope, save the plants from a deadly frost.

It was too windy to use helicopters Tuesday morning, but farmer John Hundley said he would try Tuesday night if winds calmed and temperatures did not warm up.

Temperatures dipped well below freezing in Highlands, the second-largest citrus producing county in the state. But they did not drop low enough, or long enough, to cause harm.

Typically, citrus can be damaged by four hours or more of temperatures below 28 degrees.

On Monday, schools in Nashville, Tenn., were closed as a coating of snow made for treacherous road conditions.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Video: White-outs strand motorists on roads to nowhere

  1. Transcript of: White-outs strand motorists on roads to nowhere

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Tonight millions of Americans are in the grip of some downright dangerous weather, and not all of it makes sense. For example, for a good part of this day it was colder in northern Maine than it was in southern Florida . This cold weather stretches way down to the south and way out to the east. Records were set today for cold temperatures in the eastern half of the country. Tomorrow it could get worse in some areas, even far to the south. Tonight we're concentrating on a genuine drama with families in the middle of it, traffic headed into the United States from Canada caught and cut off by a snow storm , and now rescues are underway. NBC 's John Yang leads off our coverage tonight in Michigan City , Indiana . John , good evening.

    JOHN YANG reporting: Good evening, Brian . Here in northwestern Indiana , along Lake Michigan , it snowed for the third straight day. Folks here are digging out from under two feet of snow and drifts as high as four feet. But as you say, the most dramatic conditions were to the east of here. Overnight, high winds and blowing snow created whiteout conditions, shutting down a major trucking route into Michigan from Canada. Officials said about 360 cars and trucks were stuck on the highway, leaving hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles.

    Unidentified Man #1: How long have you been here?

    Unidentified Man #2: Going on 24 hours now.

    YANG: Winds hit 65 miles an hour, and snowplows were ordered off the roads. Police snowmobiles and military helicopters were used to rescue stranded motorists.

    Unidentified Man #3: For somebody that's not dressed warm it's very dangerous because you can get cold and you could run out of gas.

    YANG: Area hotel rooms quickly filled up, and people found shelter in warming centers and places like this church in Strathroy , Canada.

    Unidentified Woman #1: I made it here, thankfully. I don't know what I would do if I got stuck.

    YANG: The Northeast United States got its first real taste of winter. Buffalo residents struggled to stay ahead of the drifting snow . Near Pittsburgh , icy conditions sent four cars spinning out of control.

    Unidentified Man #4: Felt like I was flying for a while.

    YANG: In Chicago , the cold seems to have settled in for a long winter stay as holiday shoppers made their rounds. Here in northwestern Indiana they used dump trucks to clear the more than two feet of snow that Mother Nature dumped on them. It was whipped by fierce arctic winds coming off the Great Lakes . These are literally the frozen shores of Lake Michigan . This is what happens when wet sand freezes. Rick Fruit 's been clearing parking lots with his snowplow for nearly 30 hours, with only one hour of sleep.

    Mr. RICK FRUIT: Sunday all day, Monday all day. I don't even -- what day is it? Sorry.

    YANG: To the delight of many school children, it was a snow day for schools and colleges across the country.

    Unidentified Child: I like to make snow angels and snowmans.

    YANG: Meteorologists say this weather pattern's likely to stick around for a while, so the Midwest and Northeast can expect, for the rest of the week, temperatures 30 percent below normal. Brian :

    WILLIAMS: John , of course, there you are in the cold. I'm the one who sounded like

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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