A monster winter storm took aim at a third of the nation Monday, threatening to lay a path of heavy snow and ice from the Rockies to New England, followed by a wave of bitter, bone-rattling cold that could affect tens of millions of people.
Cities including St. Louis, Kansas City and Milwaukee could be hardest hit, with expected midweek snowfalls of up to 2 feet and drifts piled 5 to 10 feet. Even hardy Chicago could be in for one of its worst blizzards since record-keeping began — 20 inches.
"I wouldn't want to be on the road in open areas tomorrow night," said forecaster Tom Skilling of Chicago TV station WGN. "I don't think I'd want to be driving in the city either. The fact is people die in these things. They skid off the road and go wandering around in whiteout conditions."
Warmer areas were not safe, either. The system could spawn tornadoes in parts of the South.
While record snowfalls have pounded the Northeast in one of that region's most brutal winters, the Midwest has been comparatively unscathed, until now.
Airlines canceled thousands of flights ahead of the snow, and legislatures in several states decided to shut down today or cancel committee meetings
A blizzard watch was in effect for today and Wednesday for southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northwest Indiana. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency and activated 600 members of the National Guard.
Bitterly cold temperatures were forecast in the wake of the storm, with wind chills as cold as 40 degrees below zero possible in parts of North Dakota, South Dakota and other areas.
After burying the Midwest, the storm was expected to sweep into the Northeast, parts of which already are on track for record snowfall. In New Hampshire, crews rushed to remove snow before a new foot or so fell.