Winter storm slows air travelers

Travelers hope to be on their way after snowstorm

DETROIT - As the season's first widespread snowstorm moves on, holiday travelers hope that means they can, too.
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The storm heads across the Great Lakes after dumping more than a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest and prompting airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights.
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Most of the canceled flights were at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway international airports. Aviation officials said more than 350 flights were canceled at O'Hare and more than 150 at Midway.

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Southwest Airlines is anticipating normal operations this morning in Chicago. United Airlines also planned a full schedule, though both airlines cautioned travelers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

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Blinding snow also is blamed for a 30-car pileup on Interstate 35 near Fort Dodge, Iowa. Two people died, including a 43-year-old Arkansas woman, Sgt. Scott Bright of the Iowa State Patrol said Wednesday.

At least 20,000 customers were without power in Iowa early Friday, most of them in the Des Moines area, according to MidAmerican Energy.

The storm -- the first blizzard of the season -- made travel treacherous throughout the region. Nebraska authorities temporarily closed much of snow-packed Interstate 80 through the state Thursday as blowing snow dangerously reduced visibility. The interstate was reopened later.

But motorists were advised to be cautious.

Things were not much better in Iowa, Bright said.

"When the winds start to blow, you can see about 5 feet in front of your vehicle" he said. "We've had major issues all over the place. We got around 10 to 12 inches throughout the state and it's a wet snow. We have around an inch of ice on our roadways."

Close to 100 accidents had been reported in Iowa by late Thursday morning, Bright said.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency, put the National Guard and state patrol on standby and closed state offices to the public in 20 counties most likely to be affected by the storm. Employees were still expected to report for work.

As much as 7 inches was already on the ground Thursday in parts of southern Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin State Patrol and National Weather Service urged people to avoid traveling.

The storm is expected to move to the northeast and southern Canada on Friday.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.