A winter weather colossus roared into the nation's heartland Tuesday, laying down a paralyzing punch of dangerous ice and whiteout snow that served notice from Texas to Maine that the storm billed as the worst in decades could live up to the hype.
Ice-covered streets were deserted in Super Bowl host city Dallas. Whiteouts shut down Oklahoma City and Tulsa. And more was on the way. Chicago expected 2 feet of snow, Indianapolis an inch of ice, and the Northeast still more ice and snow in what's shaping up to be a record winter for the region.
The system that stretched more than 2,000 miles across a third of the country promised to leave in its aftermath a chilly cloak of teeth-chattering cold, with temperatures in the single digits or lower.
Winds topped 60 mph in Texas. In Chicago, public schools called a snow day for the first time in 12 years, and both major airports gave up on flying until at least this afternoon.
The storm also led Chicago officials to close the city's busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive while crews tried to plow snow Tuesday night. Everyone "should brace for a storm that will be remembered for a long time," said Jose Santiago, executive director of the Chicago's Office of Emergency Management.
Cities across middle America shut down hours ahead of the snow. Scores of schools, colleges and government offices canceled activities or decided not to open at all. Large sections of busy Midwest interstates were closed, and 9,000 flights had been canceled across the nation.
In Missouri, more than a foot of snow had fallen by midday, with no end in sight. For the first time in history, the state of Missouri shut down Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City due to a winter storm.
"The roads are just pure white. There's no traffic. Nothing," said Kristi Strait, who was working at Clinton Discount Building Materials in Clinton, Mo.
Meteorologist Jeff Johnson of the National Weather Service in Des Moines, Iowa, said the storm was sure to "cripple transportation for a couple of days." The snow and the wind were a dangerous combination, even in areas where not that much snow was expected.
"You don't want to get caught out in the rural areas in your vehicle in this storm. It's a good night to stay home," he said.
The storm was so bad in Polk County, 200 miles west of St. Louis, that emergency officials requested help from the National Guard because local officials did not have enough vehicles to get the elderly and shut-ins to shelter if the power went out.
In state capitols across the Midwest and East, lawmakers cut short their workweek because of the storm. Normally bustling downtown streets were quiet, too.
The storm was expected to roll into the Northeast today, bringing still more snow to a winter-weary region. Towns that have been hit by several blizzards since December feared they wouldn't have anywhere to put more snow.