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Snowstorm paralyzes parts of Midwest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the second time in a week, a major winter storm paralyzed parts of the nation's midsection Tuesday, dumping a fresh layer of heavy, wet snow atop cities still choked with piles from the previous system and making travel perilous from the Oklahoma panhandle to the Great Lakes.

The weight of the snow strained power lines and cut electricity to more than 100,000 homes and businesses. At least three deaths have been blamed on the blizzard.

The Missouri Department of Transportation issued a rare "no travel" advisory, urging people to stay off highways except in case of a dire emergency. Conditions were so bad that some snowplows slid into ditches, underlining the danger even to well-equipped travelers.

"It's straight hell. It's snowing, blowing, drifting, everything," said Robert Branscecum, a trucker from Campton, Ill., who was hauling Walmart merchandise to Dallas. He had been stranded since Monday evening at Beto Junction, about 80 miles southwest of Kansas City.

In the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward, a person was killed after 15 inches of snow brought down part of a roof. The storm was also blamed for the deaths of two people in rollover crashes Monday on Interstate 70 in Kansas.

By noon Tuesday, the storm had arrived in the Great Lakes with a mixture of blowing snow, sleet and frigid rain that disrupted most forms of travel. Airlines canceled almost 500 flights at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports alone.

The wintry mix also blew through Iowa, which had been expected to escape any serious snowfall. Parts of the state could now get as much as a foot.

Fueled by a strong low pressure system, the crescent-shaped storm began Sunday in Texas, then headed north. Schools and major highways in the Texas Panhandle remained closed for a second day Tuesday.

Drought to persist

The blanket of snow covering much of the Great Plains after two big storms in less than a week may provide some relief for parched areas, but it's no "drought-buster," experts said Tuesday. A foot of snow equals roughly an inch of rain, and parts of the Plains are 20 inches short of precipitation, said Brian Fuchs of the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Neb.

Snowstorm paralyzes parts of Midwest 02/26/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 1:02am]
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