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Snowstorm Hits East After Burying Plains, Midwest

December 29, 1987

Undated (AP) _ A deadly winter storm hit the Northeast today after turning highways into parking lots and stranding travelers at packed airports as it plodded across thePlains and Midwest.

The snow tapered off in the Midwest after the storm, blamed for at least 22 deaths, moved east. In six hours overnight, the storm dropped 2 inches of snow on Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio, and Binghamton, Buffalo and Elmira, N.Y. Up to 8 inches fell on parts of Pennsylvania.

The storm, which hit the Colorado foothills with up to 34 inches of snow, reached New England today with strong winds, the National Weather Service said. It extended from Michigan to West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

″It’s blowing pretty good now,″ police dispatcher Shelley Haynes said on Nantucket Island, Mass., where 8 inches was expected. ″They’re putting the chains on the cruisers now.″

High winds accompanying the snow ripped down several utility lines in the Cape Cod area, leaving some elderly residents temporarily without phone services or electricity, said State Trooper Gerard Britt in South Yarmouth.

In Ohio, 45 trucks began salting and plowing streets in Cleveland before the morning rush hour, while Akron mobilized 32 salt trucks and crews were plowing major streets in Toledo.

The storm dumped up to 4 inches of snow on New York City, where about 300 salt trucks patrolled the streets. Plows were added to 650 pieces of equipment in anticipation of heavier snowfall.

Meanwhile, a new Pacific storm blustered into the Northwest, and flooding continued unabated in the South.

The foul weather Monday frustrated holiday travelers, unless they happened to be in Miami, where the 83-degree high tied a record for the date.

In Hastings, Mich., halfway between Milwaukee and Detroit, nearly 10 inches of snow had fallen by Monday night.

″Traffic’s moving all right now, but a lot of people are getting stuck on hills,″ said Kirk Binder, a Kalamazoo, Mich., service station employee taking dozens of tow calls. ″We get more business this way. I like this stuff.″

Other disruptions included temporary power outages in the Chicago area - between 6 and 12 inches hit northern Illinois - and several Iowa cities; rural mail undelivered around Rockford, Ill., and cancellation of greyhound racing in Waterloo, Iowa.

Heavy snow in Denver and Chicago created a large backup of flights all over the West, said San Francisco International Airport spokesman Ron Wilson.

Some passengers were diverted from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where snow fell at a rate of more than 1 inch an hour, to Milwaukee’s Mitchell Field, only to be delayed when flights were suspended to clear runways.

Denver’s Stapleton International Airport, which reopened Monday after closing for seven hours during a blizzard Sunday, struggled to catch up with a passenger backlog.

″You pretty well need a shoehorn or grease your hips to get through the crowd,″ said airport spokesman Norm Avery.

Colorado airport conditions kept Gary Hart from flying to Iowa and caused jet-setters to be diverted Monday from Aspen and other resorts to Walker Field in Grand Junction. Singers John Denver and Paul Simon, model Cheryl Tiegs, game show host Bert Convy and Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger were spotted there.

Hundreds of travelers who were diverted from Denver and Chicago spent the night in Salt Lake City, including 15 to 20 who slept in the airport.

″We’re just lucky this didn’t happen last Wednesday, just before the Christmas rush,″ said Louis Miller, the airport’s executive director.

The latest Pacific storm brought freezing rain and light snow to the Northwest, and up to 8 inches of snow was forecast for upper elevations of California’s eastern Sierra Nevada.

Two skiers who became lost in Monday’s occasionally blinding Sierra snowstorm were rescued early today near the Sugar Bowl ski resort. The two brothers survived the below-freezing temperatures by digging a snow cave.

Oregon state police closed the snow-covered southbound lanes of Interstate 5 in southwest Portland this morning after a tractor-trailer rig collided with a pickup truck. Up to 2 inches of snow were forecast for Portland and the northern Willamette Valley.

The weather service predicted the worst flooding of the Ouachita River in 40 years at Camden in southern Arkansas. Heavy rains have swelled the river, which is expected to crest Wednesday at 44.5 feet, or 18.5 feet above flood stage.

In eastern Arkansas, where 13 inches of rain fell over four days, streets remained impassable today in West Memphis.

The flooding extended into northern Louisiana, where lakeside residents tried to protect their property.

The deaths of four men each in Wisconsin and Michigan, two in Illinois and one in Minnesota were blamed on the exertion of snow removal, officials said. There were two storm-related traffic deaths in Illinois, three in Pennsylvania and Maryland and one each in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio.

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