Nightly News   |  February 01, 2011

Monster storm bears down on Midwest

A massive blizzard brought a crippling combination of snow, sleet, and ice across a huge swath of the country's midsection late Tuesday, forcing the cancellation of more than 6,000 flights and prompting power outages from Texas to Michigan. NBC's Kevin Tibbles reports.

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>>> a storm so big it runs from coast to coast . 9 at one point today, this measured over 2,000 miles in its total width. more than one simple and complete weather system . nine states are under blizzard warnings tonight, and they're talking about what, two feet or more, in a possibly history making blizzard in chicago , illinois, as this ugly winter of 2010 - 2011 continues. kevin tibbles heads off our coverage. 9

>> reporter: brian, a huge swath of this nation, including right here in beautiful chicago , illinois is expecting 24 inches, two feet of snow from a massive storm paralyzes much of the country. as the big white monster marches in, the nation mobilizes. an estimated 100 million people stand in the path of this massive storm.

>> i can barely talk right now, my face is so freakin' cold.

>> reporter: fema is already positioned in 11 states. states of emergency declared in at least four. and the national guard has been deployed in others.

>> nothing's leaving, so you don't know whether to sit here and wait or rent a car and try to drive.

>> reporter: more than 6,000 flights already cancelled. power outages reported from texas to michigan and beyond. chicago , where they know winter is bracing for two feet of snow.

>> we are prepared to use our whole fleet of 274 trucks and 120 garbage trucks with quick hitch plows.

>> reporter: heavy snow and ice hammering major cities hard.

>> i'm charles hadlock outside of dallas, where snow, sleet and ice brought closures and shut down mass transit . just as 100,000 people are starting to descend on this city for this weekend's super bowl . 9 we've had winds gusting 40 to 50 miles an hour. that's causing whiteout conditions here. advisability at times getting below an eighth of a mile. that creates dangerous travel conditions. in fact, the state department of transportation advising people to stay off the roads and stay home.

>> i'm john yang in st. louis, the big concern is the heavy snow on top of the ice that's already here, plus heavy winds are going to bring down tree limbs and power lines . the local utility has 500 linemen standing by.

>> here, near indianapolis an inch of ice has glazed roads and freeways. national guard troops are helping drivers and residents. and forecasters are calling the storm devastating. saying it could be the worst in state history.

>> reporter: brian, you heard them, authorities are saying, stay home, stay off the roads, and hunker down. this could be a very long and dangerous night.