Video: Whiteout brings Windy City to its knees

  1. Closed captioning of: Whiteout brings Windy City to its knees

    >>> back here in cairo, now as promised right back to the y news maker today was the biggest winter weather maker, the biggest blizzard of its kind in 75k years. 30 states in all touched by this one from\a%)q southwest all the way to maine ]t the northeast. million americans affected, some we're talking two feet of snow plus in places like chicago , 'r @(t&h?h p &h& where nbc's kevin tibbles is heading up our coverage there tonight. kevin , good evening. band of snow and ice that stretched on 2500 miles, ? ?.s? paralyzing travel, stranding people in their cars, and pummelling anyone who dared ? venture outdoors. whiteouts. =" chicago , where 20 inches of snow brought the windy city to its knees. ?v??l

    >> wind gusts were between 60 and 70 miles an hour and visibility was at whiteout conditions. ?l?

    >> reporter: headlines blared a nation's frustration. snow days , says one chicago we're on ice in indianapolis. dw in boston, simply "uncle." lp the national weather center qh called it crippling. anyone who dared to be out had to hang on for dear life ../6f1 hundreds of vehicles trapped in whiteout conditions along chicago 's lakeshore drive . ,#ve?tq'ding some 15 hours going nowhere. the chicago fire department even60pl?pt used snowmobiles to reach stranded motorists. airports remained deserted.?'%q nationwide this storm has forced the cancellation of close to f4i in dallas, freezing temperatures c just days before the super bowl .oy in salem, new hampshire, cars tossed like toys as snow and ice glazed thy>+g3?q9?

    >> i'm peter alexander in boston. after a day with a punishing freezing rain , the concern across much of the northeast this evening is ice.itqh already slushy roads are beginning to freeze, and snow isulv0= soaking up rain like a sponge, raising the risk of collapsing k 'h!ut in the midst of roofs. t]?okr a winter wallop, a certain pennsylvania groundhog wandered ?' the verdict.

    >> so an early spring it will be!$i?e

    >> reporter: but for now, it's still winter, and folks will do whatever it takes to get through it all. wrk and today for the first time since 1999 , chicago public they'll be closed again tomorrow. what's next? ?g well, just plummeting d]" temperatures and dangerous windchills. brian, let's just hope that groundhog got it right.z7???[w

    >> absolutely. we're rooting for punxsutawney phil .l"d1h what an unbelievable winter of 2011 so far. ?7

    reporter: root for me too.?d kevin tibbles in chicago . thanks.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/2/2011 7:11:07 PM ET 2011-02-03T00:11:07

Blizzard conditions lifted across the Midwest by Wednesday afternoon, but subzero temperatures overnight will test the hundreds of thousands still without power.

In Ohio alone, more than 200,000 homes and businesses were without power as trees downed by snow, ice and wind cut power lines. In the Chicago area, some 123,000 utility customers saw their electricity cut at the height of the blizzard. Crews had reduced that to 48,000 by Wednesday evening.

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In Texas, soaring electricity demand due to frigid cold forced the power grid operator to start rolling blackouts of up to an hour to one million homes.

In the Northeast, Boston saw heavy snow Tuesday followed by rain on Wednesday and then iced-over streets by nightfall.

Several building roofs in Boston and other areas collapsed due to the weight of weeks of snow, though no injuries were reported.

New York City, for its part, expected nearly an inch of ice covering its streets and sidewalks.

The monstrous storm, billed as the worst in decades, delivered knock-out after knock-out as it made its way from Texas to Maine, touching some 30 states and bringing a huge swath of the country to a halt.

Major automakers shut down plants in six Midwestern states as did hundreds of smaller employers.

The storm was, if not unprecedented, extraordinarily rare, National Weather Service meteorologist Thomas Spriggs said.

"A storm that produces a swath of 20-inch snow is really something we'd see once every 50 years — maybe," Spriggs said.

The Red Cross said it had opened more than 70 shelters across the Midwest.

Around 2,430 National Guard troops are providing winter storm support, NBC News reported.

The system was blamed for at least 10 deaths, including a homeless man who burned to death on Long Island as he tried to light cans of cooking fuel and a woman in Oklahoma City who was killed while being pulled behind a truck on a sled that hit a guard rail.

In areas where the storm had passed, a deep freeze set in.

In the Kansas City area, air temperatures in the single-digits and below were translating to wind chill temperatures of 5 below to 15 below zero degrees.

In North Dakota, wind chills were ranging Wednesday from 35 below to 55 below zero, and in Minnesota wind chill temperatures were ranging from 25 below to 35 below zero.

Overnight temperatures in the Chicago area were expected to fall to minus 5 to minus 20, with wind chills dropping to 20 to 30 below zero.

The extreme temperatures were overwhelming services for the poor and homeless in many areas.

"When you combine snow with wicked cold it brings even the toughest people in," said Dennis Chapman, associate executive director of the City Union Mission in Kansas City, which sheltered nearly 400 people Tuesday night.

He said they expect even more Wednesday night and will be putting mattresses on the floor to accommodate the crowd.

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Forecasters warned ice accumulations could knock down some tree limbs and power lines across the storm's more than 2,100-mile path. Ice also could affect transit service, even as plow drivers struggled to keep up with the snow on many roads.

In New York, Mike Schumaker was already into his fourth hour of what he predicted would be a 24-hour plowing marathon as he cleared snow from a suburban Albany gas station around 5 a.m. ET Wednesday.

"I figure I'll be going to about 1 or 2 in the morning. That's my guess," said the private contractor from Latham.

"It's not so much about plowing as it is about to where to put it," he said. "We still have snow from Christmas that hasn't melted."

In Chicago, the city shut down Lake Shore Drive for the first time in years, as hundreds of motorists were stranded overnight after multiple car accidents on the iconic roadway.

On Wednesday morning, Lake Shore Drive looked like rush hour had been stopped in time. Three lanes of cars cluttered the road with snow reaching as high as the windshields. Some cars were almost completely buried.

FirstPerson: View reader images from the blizzard

Bulldozers worked to clear the snow from around the cars, then tow trucks plucked them out of snow drifts one by one. The operation likely would take hours: Up to 900 cars awaited rescue.

Chicago O'Hare reported 20.2 inches of snow by 10:30 a.m. ET, the third highest snowfall total in the city's recorded history after the blizzards of 1967 and 1999.

Missouri reopened Interstate 70 from Kansas City to St. Louis on Wednesday after closing it for the first time in history. The state has as much as 1.5 feet of snow.

In the Northeast, spots in northern New York had already gotten more than a foot of snow. New York City was expected to get up to three-quarters of an inch of ice by midday before the mix of sleet and freezing rain warms up to rain.

More than 5,300 flights had been canceled Wednesday as of 10 a.m. ET, or more than 16 percent of the day's scheduled traffic, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.com. That came a day after airlines grounded 12,630 flights due to the storm.

Story: Flight cancellations mount for 2nd straight day

At Chicago's O'Hare airport, airlines cancelled all flights Wednesday and probably into Thursday. That was certain to have ripple effects at other U.S. airports, said transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman.

"Effectively shutting down America's most important aviation hub hits the system immeasurably hard," he said about O'Hare.

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Boston's Logan Airport was closed for a brief time as well Wednesday.

Amtrak canceled trains in the Midwest as well as service between New York City and Philadelphia.

At least two weather-related deaths were reported in New York, including a traffic fatality and a homeless man on Long Island who, police said, had burned to death as he tried to light cans of cooking fuel while sheltering behind a food market.

A 20-year-old woman died in Oklahoma City while being pulled behind a truck on a sled that hit a metal guard rail. A Michigan man died when his pickup truck rolled over several times on an icy highway and a Wisconsin man died while shoveling snow.

More than 200,000 homes and businesses in Ohio began Wednesday without power, while in excess of 100,000 customers had no electricity in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which were hit with mostly freezing rain and ice. Rolling blackouts were in Texas, including Super Bowl host city Dallas.

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As of 8 a.m. ET about 54,000 customers were without power in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area and in parts of east and west Texas, Oncor Corp. told NBC News. The energy provider supplies about a third of Texans.

The NFL did manage to stick to its Super Bowl schedule, holding media activities at Cowboys Stadium in suburban Arlington as planned, though the city's ice-covered streets were deserted.

Federal Emergency Management Agency director Craig Fugate said the agency is on standby with generators, food, water and other supplies to help state and local authorities.

In Chicago, public schools were closed for the first time in 12 years.

The Weather Channel reported snow drifts of up to 8 feet in Lake County, north of Chicago.

Reports of more than 20 inches of snow came in from Racine, Wis.; parts of Kane County, west of Chicago; and Beach Park, Ill., NBC News said.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declared a state of emergency in 53 counties, The Weather Channel said.

NBC News, The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Photos: Deep freeze, snow across U.S.

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  1. Irving, Texas

    This sculpture was iced over Thursday, Feb. 3, in Irving, Texas. (Eric Gay / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Miami, Oklahoma

    A pickup truck that plunged off this snow-covered bridge near Miami, Okla, on Thursday sits in the Spring River. Three people were killed and five others injured. (Gary Crow / Tulsa World via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Chicago

    The Chicago skyline is reflected on a thin layer of ice as a chunk of snow-covered ice floats in Monroe Harbor on Thursday. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Chicago

    Robert Brigs shovels snow on Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago on Thursday. (John Gress / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Iowa City, Iowa

    A car sits abandoned in the median of I-380 between Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Iowa City on Thursday. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Commuters brave subzero wind chills as they return to work Thursday in Chicago. This week's blizzard dumped more than 20 inches of snow on the city. (M. Spencer Green / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Racine County, Wisconsin

    A man walks behind high snowdrift in Racine County, Wis., on Wednesday. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Auburn, Mass.

    Officials walk past a building that collapsed in Auburn, Mass., on Wednesday, Feb. 2, after days of heavy snow followed by rain. (Paul Kapteyn / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Elizabethtown, Pa.

    A fallen tree weighed down with ice sits on Old Hershey Road in Elizabethtown, Pa., on Wednesday. (Blaine Shahan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Milwaukee, Wis.

    This walkway to Lake Michigan was frozen over Wednesday in Milwaukee, Wis. (Jeffrey Phelps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Chicago

    A commuter climbs over a snow bank to catch a bus Wednesday in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Chicago, Ill.

    Hundreds of cars are seen stranded Wednesday on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. (Kiichiro Sato / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Chicago, Ill.

    Snow piles up on the driver's seat of a stranded Chicago Transit bus on Wednesday after the door was left open during the overnight blizzard. The bus was abandoned on Lake Shore Drive. (Kiichiro Sato / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Akron, N.Y

    Andrea Todd shovels snow from her driveway with her dog Myles in Akron, N.Y., on Wednesday. (David Duprey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Milwaukee, Wis.

    A wave sends large chunks of ice into the break wall at the Milwaukee Marina in Wisconsin on Wednesday. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Iowa City, Iowa

    Downtown Iowa City, area near the University of Iowa, is a virtual ghost town on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Windsor, Conn.

    People stop along Interstate 91 in Windsor, Conn., to help push a car out of a snow bank on Wednesday. (Jessica Hill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Chicago

    Blizzard winds swirl the snow on an elevated train platform in Chicago early Wednesday. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Buffalo, N.Y.

    Frost forms on a window in Buffalo, N.Y., on Wednesday. (David Duprey / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Salem, N.H.

    This car landed vertically into a snowbank after a multiple vehicle accident on Interstate 93 on Tuesday north of Salem, N.H. No one was injured. (Tim Jean / The Eagle-Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. New York City

    The Wednesday morning commute in New York City's lower Manhattan was an icy one. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Westfield, N.J.

    An officer blocks the road to prevent pedestrians and traffic from approaching a fallen tree branch and power lines in Westfield, N.J., on Wednesday. (John Makely / msnbc.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Milwaukee, Wis.

    A cyclist tries to ride during the blizzard in Milwaukee, Wis., on Wednesday. (Darren Hauck / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Barre, Vt.

    A dog named Muldoon waits for its owner, who stopped for coffee on Wednesday in Barre, Vt. (Toby Talbot / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Chicago

    Men help push a car that got stuck in a snow on the Lake Shore Drive in Chicago early Wednesday. (Kamil Krzaczynski / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Milwaukee, Wis.

    Students from Marquette University in Milwaukee to go to the Union Building in blinding snow as a blizzard warning hits southeast Wisconsin on Tuesday. Marquette canceled classes for Wednesday. (Rick Wood / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Chicago

    Cross country skiers navigate through snow downtown Chicago on Tuesday. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Chicago

    Rush hour traffic crawls as blowing snow batters Lake Shore Drive in Chicago on Tuesday. (John Gress / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Columbia, Mo.

    A snow-and-ice covered Chris Gubbels pauses while walking his dog Tuesday in Columbia. Mo. (L.G. Patterson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Chicago, Ill.

    Snow falls on the Cloud Gate sculpture, also known as "the bean," in Millennium Park downtown Chicago on Monday. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. View from above

    This satellite image provided by NOAA shows the winter storm covering much of the U.S. on Tuesday. (NOAA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Fayetteville, Ark.

    A snow plow clears College Ave. in Fayetteville, Ark., on Tuesday as heavy snow falls. (April L. Brown / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Chicago, Ill.

    An approaching blizzard doesn't stop this fisherman Tuesday on Lake Michigan in Chicago. (John Gress / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Boonville, Mo.

    Trucks disappear into the white snow as they travel along I-70 on Tuesday near Boonville, Mo. (L.G. Patterson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Rogers, Ark.

    Postal carrier Tip Burnett uses a rubber hammer to open a frozen mailbox at the National Guard armory in Rogers, Ark., during heavy snow on Tuesday. (Flip Putthoff / Northwest Arkansas Newspapers vi) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Brooklyn, N.Y.

    Morning commuters in New York City make their way over a snow covered Williamsburg bridge on Tuesday. (Mary Altaffer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Port Washington, Wisc

    Icicles form on a walkway along Lake Michigan in Port Washington, Wisc., on Tuesday. (Jeffrey Phelps / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Carmel, Ind

    A Bobcat is used to clear a parking lot of two-inch-thick ice in Carmel, Ind., on Tuesday. (Michael Conroy / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Lancaster, Pa.

    Icy patches made crossing the sidewalk in Lancaster, Pa., a challenge on Tuesday. (Richard Hertzler / Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Owasso, Okla

    Ila Dooley digs her car out to try and get to work on Tuesday in Owasso, Okla. Both of Oklahoma's major airports had to shut down due to the snow. (Mike Simons / Tulsa World via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. St. Louis, Mo

    Snow plows work to remove ice from Interstate 55 on Tuesday in St. Louis, Mo. A blizzard warning was in effect for the St. Louis area, as was a forecast for up to 20 inches of snow. (Tom Gannam / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Albany, N.Y.

    Snow was also falling Tuesday in downtown Albany, N.Y. Most of upstate New York was under a winter storm warning and Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened the State Emergency Operations Center due to a forecast of up to 2 feet of snow in some areas. (Mike Groll / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Denver, Co.

    A woman braces against the cold and blowing snow as she crosses the street in the financial district of downtown Denver on Monday. School officials canceled schools in Denver for Tuesday. (Ed Andrieski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Pembroke, Mass.

    Scott Buchanan scrapes snow off the roof of his house in Pembroke, Mass., on Monday as his yellow Lab Charlie holds a snow covered ball in his mouth waiting to play catch. (Stephan Savoia / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Lexington, Ky.

    Lexington, Ky., police and firefighters work at the scene of an accident after freezing rain moved coated roads there on Monday. A section of Georgetown Road was closed after two separate accidents involving five vehicles. Freezing rain turned the bridge into a sheet of ice. (Charles Bertram / The Lexington Herald-Leader via) Back to slideshow navigation
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Map: Storm wreaks havoc

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