MINNEAPOLIS ó A storm system stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes has buffeted the central U.S. with heavy snow, winds, rain and hail, forcing flight cancellations, creating treacherous road conditions and killing at least three people, including a sleeping 2-year-old Louisiana girl.
In the Upper Midwest, the early spring storm brought snow to a region pining for sunshine and warmth. Around 400 flights were canceled at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which grounded all flights Saturday afternoon as heavy snow made it difficult to keep runways clear and planes deiced, while blizzard conditions forced the airport in South Dakotaís biggest city, Sioux Falls, to remain closed for a second straight day.
The Minnesota Twins home game against the Chicago White Sox was snowed out Saturday, marking the first back-to-back postponements of baseball games in the stadiumís nine seasons. Todayís game was also called off because of the storm. The Yankees and Tigers were rained out Saturday in Detroit.
Authorities closed several highways in southwestern Minnesota, where no travel was advised, and driving conditions were difficult across the southern half of the state. The National Weather Service predicted that a large swath of southern Minnesota, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, would get 9 to 15 inches of snow by the time the storm blows through today.
"Itís a cool experience for me, the best Minneapolis experience," Niko Heiligman, of Aachen, Germany, said as he braved the snow Saturday to take a walk along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. "Iím only here for the weekend, so I guess thatís how it goes. Thereís snow and itís cold. So itís good."
The storm is expected to persist through today in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan before moving into New York state and New England.
Up to 18 inches of snow had fallen by early Saturday in parts of northern Wisconsin, with another 14 inches expected by this evening. Winds of up to 55 mph caused blowing and drifting snow, along with ice shoves in Green Bay.
The National Weather Service also warned of potential coastal flooding along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and Illinois, where Chicago residents were warned that waves could reach as high as 18 feet.
Snow and wind gusts of up to 50 mph were whipping through parts of South Dakota for a second straight day Saturday, causing blizzard conditions that made travel all but impossible. While the blizzard warning was lifted in the western part of the state, it remained in effect for much of southern and eastern South Dakota.
No travel was advised in Sioux Falls, where police said the blowing snow limited visibility.
The storm and powerful winds knocked out power to thousands of customers in Michigan, which was expected to get more snow and ice through the weekend.
Two storm-related deaths occurred early Saturday. In Louisiana, winds downed a tree onto a mobile home in Haughton, killing a sleeping 2-year-old girl inside, according to the Bossier Parish Sheriffís Office. In Wisconsin, a woman was killed when she lost control of the minivan she was driving on a slippery highway and struck an oncoming SUV near Lewiston. Three passengers in the minvan and the SUV driver were hospitalized.