Midwest, Plains brace for massive winter storm

Monday, January 31, 2011 | 11:54 a.m. CST

CHICAGO — The nation's midsection braced for a massive winter storm Monday that forecasters said will bring heavy snow and ice to much of the Plains and Midwest as the week progresses.

The National Weather Service forecasts freezing rain and snow across the region Monday, heralding the start of a storm system that is expected to bring heavy snowfall Tuesday and Wednesday, paralyzing parts of the region. The storm was expected to march from the Rockies through much of the Plains and Midwest before making its way to the East Coast.

Early Monday, freezing drizzle made roads slick in northwest Missouri, causing cars to slide off highways in Buchanan County and prompting authorities to cancel classes at public and private schools in the area. Freezing rain and fog led to some flight delays Sunday at the airport in Rapid City, S.D.

Chicago and Milwaukee were expected to be particularly hard-hit. The weather service issued a blizzard watch for Tuesday and Wednesday for southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northwest Indiana that included those cities. Forecasters said snowfall totals could reach up to 2 feet in some areas by the time the storm system has moved through the region.

The weather service said the heavy snowfall combined with high winds could create whiteout conditions, particularly on Tuesday night into Wednesday, making driving extremely dangerous in some areas. Snow drifts of 5 feet to 10 feet are possible. The service said winds on Tuesday could reach up to 60 mph in open areas and near Lake Michigan.

Once the storm has moved through, bitterly cold temperatures are expected to grip much of the region. The weather service said wind chills as cold as 40 degrees below zero could hit parts of North Dakota and South Dakota.

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