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Holiday storm eases, leaving at least 22 dead

Sunny skies prevailed Monday in the upper Midwest, where a weekend snowstorm blacked out thousands of homes and businesses and was blamed for at least 22 deaths.
Image: Traffic on Interstate 94 was slow going as a major snow storm hits in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Drivers battle snow on Interstate 94 in Minneapolis on Sunday. Craig Lassig / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sunny skies on Monday helped road crews deal with the remnants of a blustery snowstorm that blacked out thousands of homes and businesses and was blamed for at least 22 traffic deaths in the upper Midwest.

Sgt. Michael Melgaard of the Wisconsin State Patrol in Eau Claire said driving conditions improved substantially for holiday travelers starting in the late morning.

"The roads were clear for the most part and traffic was moving at normal speeds," he said Monday afternoon. "It seemed like there was a lot of steady holiday traffic, but it's starting to wane now as people are getting to their destinations."

The weekend-long blast of ice and windblown snow led to multi-car pileups that closed sections of several major highways on the Plains.

Adding to the death toll, authorities say a woman died in Maple Valley Township, Mich., about 60 miles north of Detroit, after she lost control of her truck and it rolled into a ditch filled with water. The woman was trapped in the overturned truck, said police who discovered the wreck Monday morning.

A sea of ice in some areas
The storm rolled through Colorado and Wyoming on Friday, then spread snow and ice on Saturday from the Texas Panhandle to Wisconsin. On Sunday, snow fell across much of Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota and parts of Michigan and Indiana.

Up to 15 inches of snow fell over the weekend on parts of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, which typically gets heavy snow, and freezing drizzle glazed some highways Monday morning in counties along Lake Michigan.

The storm system had blown out to sea Monday morning, but in its wake wind blowing at 25 mph picked up moisture from Lake Erie to create lake-effect snow in Buffalo, N.Y. Five to 10 inches of snow was possible there and in other parts of western New York by Tuesday morning, the weather service said.

Travel woes ease
In Chicago, some 250 travelers stayed overnight Sunday at O'Hare International Airport after 300 flights were canceled because of high winds. The airport set up cots for travelers, and flights were running smoothly Monday, airport spokesman Gregg Cunningham said.

More than 11,000 homes and businesses were without power at some point Saturday in Wisconsin because of the freezing rain, ice, gusty wind and heavy snow, utilities said. Michigan utilities reported some 15,700 customers were still without power Monday morning, and in Illinois about 3,900 ComEd customers remained without power Monday, down from a Sunday morning peak of more than 225,000.

In addition to the Michigan fatality, accidents on highways slippery with snow and ice killed at least eight people in Minnesota, three in Indiana, three in Wyoming, five in Wisconsin and one each in Texas and Kansas.