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Midwest gets first big snowstorm of warm winter

A man clears snow from a sidewalk Thursday in Champaign, Ill., as many parts of the Midwest got their first significant snowfalls of the winter. More snow is expected.

Associated Press

A man clears snow from a sidewalk Thursday in Champaign, Ill., as many parts of the Midwest got their first significant snowfalls of the winter. More snow is expected.

MILWAUKEE — An unusually mild winter gave way to the Midwest's first big snowstorm of the season Thursday, blanketing the region in a layer of powder and pack that forced happy snow plow drivers off their couches and into the streets.

The storm dumped several inches of snow on western parts of Wisconsin and Iowa before moving east into Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago, where up to 8 inches were expected to fall by this morning.

Eastern Iowa had 2 to 6 inches of snow by Thursday evening, and the storm was expected to leave southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois with 3 to 8 inches as it moves northeast, said National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Castro.

While the dry weather helped cash-strapped towns that didn't have to pay to plow, salt and sand streets, it has hurt seasonable businesses that bank on snow.

"If people don't see it in their yards they are not likely to come out and ski and snowboard so this is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful for us," said Kim Engel, owner of Sunburst Ski area in Kewaskum, Wis.

The weather service said lake effect snow means parts of Michigan and northern Indiana could get up to a foot.

"I love it," said Rob Moser, a snow plow driver from Elkhart, Ind. "I make money plowing snow and I'm all about snowmobiling, so I love it."

While some grade-schoolers cheered an unexpected day of sledding, the storm was an annoyance for most commuters. Officials said it caused hundreds of traffic accidents and at least three deaths. And air travelers had to scramble when 500 flights were canceled at Chicago's two airports.

tornado hits western N.C.: Weather officials confirm an unusual January tornado with 115-mph winds was in the storm system that swept through Rutherford and Burke counties Wednesday, destroying mobile homes, damaging dozens of buildings and injuring nearly 20 people.

Midwest gets first big snowstorm of warm winter 01/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 9:58pm]

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