Video: Winter chill hits the U.S.

  1. Closed captioning of: Winter chill hits the U.S.

    >>> to this year's delayed winter on set which in the midwest is emphatically here tonight. the snow that hit the chicago area moved east. behind it bitter cold. weather channel meteorologist mike seidel with us from cleveland tonight with the latest.

    >> reporter: good evening. it was a shock to those in the midwest as the warnings were snub. in cleveland four inches of lake-effect snow with 40 mile-an-hour wind gusts that caused whiteouts. wind chills near zero were long overdue here in. buffalo, six inches of snowfall. another foot could small tonight and tomorrow. in green bay 450 turned out in lambeau field and scored $10 an hour to shovel out the stadium ahead of sunday's packers/giants playoff game. unlike four years ago, temperatures will be in the upper 20s at kick-off and in the below zero . close to zero tonight in chicago. your coldest night so far, more snow around the lakes tomorrow. that 29 in new york city tonight is actually a little bit above average. wind chill will get you. tomorrow, a seasonable january day in the northeast. sunshine, less wind. the warm-up begins in the big cities . by sunday, temperature are back above average. how many times have we said that this season in chicago, st. louis and atlanta? with millions dealing with this teeth-chattering weather going into the weekend, at least some will be online tonight checking out caribbean vacations.

    >> a cold night on the lake in cleveland . mike seidel , thanks.

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/13/2012 7:29:22 AM ET 2012-01-13T12:29:22

It's finally looking like winter in the Midwest as the season's first big snowstorm crawls across the region, leaving skiers and snow-reliant businesses giddy but greeting morning commuters Friday with a sloppy, slippery drive.

After starting as one of the warmest and brownest winters in recent history, parts of Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri were blanketed in white before the storm moved into Illinois and Michigan.

Snowplow drivers were out in force overnight in Chicago, as six to eight inches of snow and plummeting temperatures moved in.

Nearly 15 inches was expected across parts of northern Indiana by mid-day, and residents in Michigan's Upper Peninsula were bracing for more than a foot before the storm continued its eastward roll through Ohio and into New England.

The blast of arctic air stretched southward from the northern Plains, through the Midwest and then toward the East Coast, according to The Weather Channel.

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Friday morning throughout the area wasn't set to hit record cold temperatures, but it would be colder than it has been, it said.

In a typical year, such a storm would hardly register in the Upper Midwest. But the atmospheric patterns, including the Pacific pattern known as La Nina, that have conspired to make this an unusually icy winter in Alaska have kept it abnormally warm in parts of the lower 48 states used to more snow.

For Steve Longo, a 47-year-old chiropractor from Wauwatosa, Wis., the wait to try out the cross country skis he got for Christmas was excruciating. He and friend Alex Ng, 56, wasted no time in hitting the trails at the Lapham Peak cross country ski area, about 25 miles west of Milwaukee.

"I wasn't worried," Longo said. "I was just anxious."

"This is Wisconsin," a confident Ng said. "There's going to be snow."

The storm left 2 to 6 inches of snow on eastern Iowa by Thursday evening, and was expected to drop 3 to 8 inches total on southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois as it moves further into the Northeast on Friday, according to Richard Castro, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

STORY: First winter blast hits Midwest, Northeast

While the dry weather has been an unexpected boon to many cash-strapped communities, which have saved big by not having to pay for plowing, salting and sanding their streets, it has hurt seasonable businesses that bank on the snow.

"If people don't see it in their yards they are not likely to come out and ski and snowboard so this is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful for us," Kim Engel, owner of Sunburst Ski area in Kewaskum in southeastern Wisconsin, said as she watched the snow come down out the window.

'I love it'
Rob Moser, a snowplow driver from Elkhart, Ind., said he couldn't wait for the flakes to start falling. The weather service said lake effect snow could mean parts of Michigan and northern Indiana could get up to a foot.

"I love it. I make money plowing snow and I'm all about snowmobiling, so I love it," Moser said. "We haven't had enough snow to do much."

The storm was an annoyance for most commuters, and authorities said it caused hundreds of traffic accidents and at least three road deaths — two in Iowa and one in Missouri. And while some lucky grade-schoolers cheered an unexpected day of sledding, hundreds of would-be air travelers had to scramble to come up with a Plan B.

More than 400 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Thursday, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Across town at Midway International Airport, more than 100 flights were canceled.

Tornado rips through N.C. towns, injuring 15

In New York state, the storm dumped up to 8 inches of snow on the southern Adirondack Mountains and forced scores of schools to cancel or delay the start of classes. Until Thursday's storm, Albany had received only 6.5 inches of snow this winter, which is about 10 inches less than it normally gets, according to the weather service.

The ice and snow may have caused headaches for travelers, but 44-year-old Mike Norman, of Evanston, Ill., said the snow was long overdue. Norman co-founded Chicago Endurance Sports, which offers a Winter Warriors program to help runners stay committed to their training and teach them about the right gear for winter.

But because of the unseasonably warm weather — temperatures exceeded 50 degrees on Wednesday — the program hasn't really geared up, he said.

"It's one of my favorite times of year to run. It's clean. It's crisp. It's quiet," Norman said. "It's fun to put footsteps in the fresh snow."

Lisa Taylor, the director of the North American Vasa cross-country ski race near Traverse City, Mich., said the storm, which pushed into the area Thursday night, would help reinforce the thick base of snow on the rolling trails that they needed for races.

"There's been a great feeling of confidence that we'd get some good snow," Taylor said. "Up in the hilly areas where the trails are, there's already more snow than you'd think."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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