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Snow Hits Midwest; South Gets Chill

December 19, 2000

Snow and bitter cold blew across the Midwest on Monday, closing roads and schools, delaying flights and disrupting the Electoral College vote in Minnesota. A chill also settled over the hard-hit South.

As much as 17 inches of snow were predicted for parts of Wisconsin by Tuesday, with lighter amounts expected in Minnesota, Illinois and Indiana.

``The last couple of years we haven’t seen this kind of weather until January,″ Paul Lichte said as shoveled the sidewalk in front of his father’s Madison, Wis., law office for the fourth time Monday. ``It’s nice to have snow at Christmas, so this year we know for sure we’ll have some.″

The storm, which followed a weekend of deadly weather in the South, was a nightmare for travelers. Nearly one-fourth of flights at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee were canceled or delayed and more than 100 Northwest flights were delayed in and out of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

United had canceled 72 of its 414 scheduled departures from O’Hare in Chicago; systemwide, the airline canceled 167 of its daily operating schedule of 2,300 flights because of the weather.

American Airlines canceled about 45 departures and arrivals, said spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan. But after last week’s storms dumped up to 16 inches of snow on the Chicago area, the airline was confident it could deal with a few more inches.

``Three to five inches after 12 inches? We will deal with it,″ Fagan said. ``This is Chicago, and it snows here.″

Bad weather also delayed three Electoral College members from getting to the Minnesota Capitol in St. Paul. They showed up in time to vote.

Schools, businesses and even snowplow service all but came to a halt in Nebraska as the state was swept by its fourth storm in a week. Blowing and drifting snow temporarily closed two highways Monday night, including Interstate 80.

Earlier, slick roads and poor visibility were blamed for a pileup involving five semitrailers, two cars and a snowplow. It happened Monday afternoon in the eastbound lanes of I-80 between Lincoln and Omaha, forcing officials to close those lanes for several hours, the Nebraska State Patrol said. Patrol spokeswoman Terri Teuber said only minor injuries resulted from the crash.

A Greyhound bus slid into a western Nebraska ditch late Sunday, sending at least 45 people to hospitals with minor injuries. Wind-chill readings in the state were 35 degrees below zero early Monday; it was 57 below at Jamestown, N.D.

In the South, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee declared disaster areas in 41 counties nearly a week after what state officials said was the worst ice storm in state history. Some 40,000 homes were still without power Monday.

``I’ve just been quilting by the light of the window during the day and go to bed when it gets dark,″ said Kitty Watson, 73, whose home has been without electricity since last week. ``And my goodness, I must’ve gained 10 pounds in the past week cause you know, you bake when you’re bored.″

In Alabama, freezing rain, snow and a second day of cold closed dozens of schools and sent homeless to shelters across the state. The state was still picking up from weekend tornadoes that killed 12 people.

At least 28 of Tennessee’s 95 counties closed schools Monday and bitter cold was forecast again Tuesday. Georgia also was preparing for more frigid temperatures and wind.

``We generally don’t get snow this early but we’ve been enjoying it,″ said Lewis Lane, who works at Sky Valley Ski Resort in northeast Georgia, where nearly 4 inches of snow fell Sunday.

Thousands of homes and businesses were still without power in the Northeast on Monday after a fast-moving cold front ushered out record warmth. Boston, Concord, N.H., and Hartford, Conn., all set record highs Sunday, while New York and New Jersey were swamped by rain.

At the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington, N.H., weather observer Tod Hagan said there was a high wind speed of 98 mph Sunday _ and a record high of 40 degrees.

It was also warm in Southern California, where highs in the 70s and 80s and winds gusting to 60 mph hampered crews fighting wildfires. No injuries were reported and no homes were threatened.

The warm weather was welcome news to Christine Lloyd, an Australian working at a restaurant in Malibu, Calif.

``I was out in the back yard, hosing off the pool chairs, in just shorts and T-shirt, having a great time,″ she said. ``Me being a Sydney girl, it’s 80 degrees, it looks like a real Christmas to me.″


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