Wintry Storm Strands Travelers In Chicago Airports

Tuesday, December 2nd 2008, 9:43 am
By: News On 6

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Stranded airline passengers lingered in Chicago's airports Monday as a storm tapered off after delivering a wintry mix to the Midwest including snow, gusty winds and ice that led to at least two traffic deaths.

More snow is expected later in the week, followed by colder weather. Anywhere from 2 to 10 inches of snow fell in Illinois and Wisconsin, the National Weather Service said. The snow knocked out power in the Milwaukee area and closed schools in both states.

Illinois State Police handled dozens of accidents, even in southern Illinois, where snowfall was modest.

"At one point we had over two dozen troopers already at crash locations with over 50 additional calls pending," said Ralph Timmins, Illinois State Police master trooper.

Snow wasn't as heavy in the Chicago area, where a couple of inches fell, but low visibility and gusty winds caused flight delays Monday at Chicago's two main airports.

Delays at O'Hare International Airport, one of the world's busiest, averaged about 30 minutes, and 50 flights were canceled Monday, Chicago Department of Aviation spokesman Gregg Cunningham said. Those cancelations were in addition to 50 other flights canceled at O'Hare on Sunday as the storm rolled into Chicago.

At Midway International Airport, delays were around 15 minutes with no cancelations, Cunningham said.

The season's first winter storm provided the first big test for a new $450 million O'Hare runway and air-traffic tower, which opened on Nov. 20. A federal analysis appeared to show that it helped reduce flight delays, as aviation officials hoped it would.

Icy roads led to fatal accidents just outside Champaign and near Lincoln on Monday, according to police.

The National Weather Service forecasts rain turning to snow Wednesday and into Thursday, followed by "much colder air behind that at the end of the week," with lows in the teens and highs ranging from the mid-20s in northern Illinois to the lower 30s in the south, meteorologist Chuck Schaffer said.