East Coast Braces for Blizzard that's Dumped Feet of Snow and Cost Lives

CHICAGO, Dec. 9 (UPI) — The first major winter storm of the season to batter large portions of the United States charged toward the East Coast early Wednesday.

The massive storm, which was blamed for at least four deaths, left 4-5 feet of snow in the Sierra and Rockies, then whipped across the Central Plains and Midwest where up to 14 inches of snow was buffeted by 40 mph winds, meteorologists at AccuWeather.com said.

No place registered more snow than South Fork, Colo., where 59 inches fell. Below the mountains, Clay Center, Neb. reported 14 inches, Rockport, Mo. had 12.5 and about a foot was reported in Mankato and Phillipsburg, Kans., and Des Moines, Iowa. Six to 10 inches were reported across parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Even Eckhart Mines, Md., had 5.4 inches. Accumulations were expected to reach 12-18 inches from northeastern Iowa to northern Lower Michigan by Wednesday evening

The blizzard made for dangerous travel and people across the country’s mid-section were advised against venturing out. Numerous accidents were reporting from Kansas to Iowa, including along Interstates 35 and 80, AccuWeather said.

Visibility was a half mile or less in Madison, Wis., and Omaha.

The storm was forecast to press to the northeast through the night and air travel was expected to be seriously impacted across the Midwest and Northeast Wednesday.

Snow, ice and rain was already hitting the mid-Atlantic and was forecast to spread into the Northeast through Wednesday. Washington, Philadelphia and New York City were expected to get mostly rain, but sleet and snow were reported close by and motorists were expected to encounter treacherous road conditions. Slow going was predicted for Interstates 80, 81, 87, 88, 90, 91 and 95 in the Northeast.

Snow was to begin in Boston before daybreak Wednesday, leaving 1-3 inches in the city before changing to rain by midday. Three to 6 inches was expected in Boston’s northern and western suburbs.

Enough snow to shovel and plow was forecast from the northern tier of Pennsylvania to northern New England.

AccuWeather forecast a “tremendous lake-effect snow event” on the heels of this storm for the second half of the week that it said “will bury some snow belt communities under feet of snow.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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