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Nebraska I-80 open, but ban on big rigs on Indiana Toll Road still effective

A towing crew from Moody's of Rochester, Minn. hooks up a tanker trailer truck that lost control and landed in the median of U.S. 52 North near Oronocco, Minn. Thursday as the first major snowstorm of the season began its slow eastward march across the Midwest early Thursday, creating treacherous driving conditions.(Associated Press: JERRY OLSON/Rochester Post-Bulletin)

The Associated Press

12/21/2012

Travelers facing canceled flights and closed roads were hoping to finally head to their holiday destinations Friday as a widespread snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of the Midwest moved across the Great Lakes toward Canada.

The storm, part of a system that began in the Rockies earlier in the week, led airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights Thursday and caused whiteout conditions that left roads dangerous to drive on. It was blamed for deaths in at least five states, with parts of Iowa and Wisconsin hit with more than a foot of snow.

There was good news in the fact that Interstate 80 in Nebraska was reopened in mid-afternoon Thursday.

Also, the Minnesota State Patrol says the southbound lanes of Interstate 35 between Albert Lea and the Iowa border have reopened.

That section of the interstate had been closed since Thursday about 2 p.m. because of multiple accidents and the request of the Iowa Department of Transportation.

In Iowa, I-35 from the Minnesota border to Ames has also reopened.

The Department of Transportation says driving conditions in southeastern Minnesota are fair.

However, the ban on tractor-trailers on the Indiana Toll Road remained in place Friday morning.

In Chicago, aviation officials said more than 350 flights were called off at O'Hare International Airport on Thursday and more than 150 at Midway International Airport.

But on Friday, as the storm continued its crawl eastward, only about 50 flights were canceled and a similar number faced delays of up to two hours at the Chicago airports.

Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride said Friday would be the busiest air travel day of the holiday period, with 200,000 passengers passing through O'Hare and another 66,000 at Midway, based on airline estimates.

High winds were blamed for lingering airport delays further east, with three-hour waits anticipated at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and La Guardia Airport in New York.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for New York City and Long Island, forecasting gusts of up to 60 miles per hour. Winter storm warnings and advisories were issued for Pennsylvania, where snow was forecast starting late morning and through the day.

In Madison, Wis., more than 19 inches of snow fell, prompting the University of Wisconsin at Madison to cancel Thursday's finals. Senior Elle Knutson, 21, said she spent most of the day in her apartment chatting with friends on the Internet and staring out her window at the snow.

"At first it was kind of nice, but I'm going a little stir-crazy," Knutson said Thursday night.

The storm made travel difficult from Kansas to Wisconsin, forcing road closures, including a 120-mile stretch of Interstate 35 from Ames, Iowa, through Albert Lea, Minn. Iowa and Wisconsin activated National Guard troops to help rescue stranded drivers.

In Iowa, two people were killed and seven injured in a 25-vehicle pileup. Drivers were blinded by blowing snow and didn't see vehicles that had slowed or stopped on Interstate 35 about 60 miles north of Des Moines, state police said. A chain reaction of crashes involving semitrailers and passenger cars closed down a section of the highway.

In Kentucky, snowplows are operating in northeast Kentucky as snow showers move across the region.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said early Friday that that highway crews were treating slick spots in Mason, Bath, Rowan and Elliott counties. They were on standby for being dispatched in Greenup, Lewis, Boyd, Fleming, Carter and Nicholas counties.

The department has 75 snowplows in District 9 and has stockpiled 23,000 tons of salt.

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In Pennsylvania, a winter storm could bring a foot or more of snow to parts of western Pennsylvania after disrupting holiday travel over a huge part of the Midwest.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for parts of northwest Pennsylvania on Friday while an advisory is in effect for Pittsburgh. Snow is expected to begin falling in the morning and get heavier later in the afternoon. Forecasters say Pittsburgh could get two to five inches by the time the storm moves out Saturday.

Heavy rain trigged small stream flood warnings in eastern Pennsylvania, where high winds also brought down some trees. The rain was expected to end while temperatures dropped through the day Friday.

Downed trees and power lines as well as flooding slowed traffic during the morning rush, even closing southbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia.

Iowa officials say snow plow operators will be out Friday morning continuing to clear roads affected by a major storm this week.

The state Department of Transportation says nearly 450 snow plows and other removal equipment is helping clear crash scenes and vehicles blocking roadways on the interstate system.

The agency says travel is not expected to significantly improve until later Friday.

At least 80 crashes were reported Thursday throughout the state. Officials also say drivers on a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 80 were stuck Thursday night. A 25-car pileup on Interstate 35 in northern Iowa killed two people and injured seven.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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