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February 22, 2013

Storm slows Midwest commute, buries Plains in snow

DES MOINES — A snowstorm that blanketed parts of the Plains and Midwest in snow and ice and forced truckers to take a night off made commuting a grind Friday morning as it slowly moved to the north and east.

Powerful wind gusts churned-up snow and created large drifts on many Midwest roadways, making navigating the slick conditions all the more difficult.

At a Travel Centers of America truck stop in the central Illinois city of Effingham, all of the 137 parking spaces were filled by truckers unwilling to drive through the storm overnight.

"When it gets really bad, they like to camp out," cashier Tia Schneider said Thursday night, noting that some drivers called ahead. "They can make reservations from 500 miles away to make sure a space is available."

Strong gusts off Lake Michigan were making driving treacherous for commuters in eastern Wisconsin, and police and tow trucks were busy responding to fender-benders and spinouts Friday morning.

Chicago's more than 280 snowplows were busy salting and clearing the city's streets. Commuters had to slog through slush to get to their offices, some schools closed or were opening late, and a few minor traffic accidents were reported, but the storm didn't appear to cause any major problems.

About 270 flights in and out of Chicago's two airports were canceled Friday morning, and inbound flights were being held up by an average of 90 minutes due to the snow and ice, according to the airline tracking website FlightAware.com.

As the storm moved northward and eastward out of the Plains, it left behind some impressive snow totals, including 13 inches in northern Oklahoma, 10 inches near Kansas City, Mo., and 17 inches in Hays, Kansas. In Topeka, Kan., 3 inches of snow fell in only 30 minutes on Thursday, leaving medical center worker Jennifer Carlock dreading her drive home.

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