Stranded motorists get airlift out of snow

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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.Glenn Ogilvie / AP
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

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.

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.

Midwest: 2 feet in Cleveland area

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

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.

"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.

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.

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.
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.