A storm so massive it simultaneously dumped snow from Minnesota to Virginia and heavy rains from Indiana to Alabama fueled weather havoc Wednesday in every state east of the Mississippi River.
In the north, snow totals were tamped down by a more dangerous winter storm weapon – ice. Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington were among major cities hit with inches of snow with sleet moving in behind it.
More than 200 million people will feel the storm’s wrath before it finally rolls into history Thursday and Friday.
“The heaviest snow will be over Central Pennsylvania, which could see 10 inches,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alan Reppert, who should know. AccuWeather is based in State College, Pa., where classes were canceled at sprawling Penn State University.
Almost everyone who got snow could look forward to a chaser of sleet and freezing rain, Reppert told USA TODAY.
“At least snow allows for some traction,” Reppert said. “Ice can be unforgiving.”
Airline traffic was under siege: Almost 700 flights were canceled into and out of metro Washington’s three airports alone by 10 a.m. More than 205 were canceled and about the same number delayed at Chicago’s O’Hare, Philadelphia International had more than 120 flights canceled.
The National Weather Service’s local forecast for parts of Virginia on Wednesday was several inches of snow followed by ice and sleet. It’s warning of dangerous commutes was a recurring theme across much of the nation.
“Travel will be very difficult,” the notice said. “The combined weight of snow, sleet and freezing rain could result in downed branches and isolated power outages.”
In Washington, D.C., federal offices were closed although emergency staff and teleworkers remained on the job. School closings in major cities and their environs stretched from Minneapolis down to Kansas City and east to Washington and Philadelphia.
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SOURCE: USA Today, John Bacon