More school closings because of snow and cold wave

Wednesday, February 7th 2007, 6:09 am
By: News On 6

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ The blowing snow and intense cold already blamed for 11 deaths across the country kept schools closed for a second day Wednesday across much of West Virginia, where temperatures have been at their lowest in more than a decade.

The arctic weather disrupted flights from Chicago to the Northeast on Tuesday, shut down some Amtrak service and caused huge chain-reaction traffic accidents. Schools also have been closed in places from Minnesota to upstate New York.

There was some relief Wednesday in the Great Lakes region.

Chicago woke up to temperatures around zero with a wind chill of 14 below zero _ an improvement over its minus-30 wind chill on Monday. The area was expected to rebound into the low 20s by the end of the week, National Weather Service meteorologist Tim Seeley said Tuesday.

The cold air returned to the northern Plains, where Hallock, Minn., had a temperature of 27 below zero early Wednesday, the weather service reported.

Residents of upstate New York were digging out from lake-effect squalls that dumped more than 5 feet of snow over a two-day period at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. The weather service reported 62 inches of snow at Oswego, 35 miles north of Syracuse.

Despite the snow, most schools in Oswego County were back in session Wednesday. Meteorologists said some areas in the New York lake-effect snow belt could collect more than 100 inches before the system breaks up, which isn't expected until at least the weekend.

In West Virginia, however, schools were closed or had delayed openings in parts of all 55 counties Wednesday. The state's snowfall ranged up to 7 inches at White Oak, the weather service said.

``It was the perfect storm,'' said Joe Stevens, spokesman for the West Virginia Ski Areas Association. ``Over 4 feet of snow has fallen since the middle of January, which has really turned the situation around for the resorts that were experiencing ... above normal temperatures earlier in the season.''

Tuesday brought the coldest readings across West Virginia since Feb. 5, 1996, when several all-time records were set or tied for February, the weather service said.

The mountain city of Elkins fell to 16 below zero Tuesday, tying the record for Feb. 6 set in 1979, and the state capitol of Charleston had a record low of 1 below, the weather service said.

Elsewhere, Chicago city crews responded to more than 1,000 reports of frozen pipes Tuesday, said Department of Water Management spokesman Tom LaPorte. The cold also hampered firefighting efforts because emergency workers had to use propane torches to thaw frozen hydrants.

More than 140 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport, which reported average delays of 45 to 90 minutes for all arrivals and departures Tuesday night, city aviation department spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.

``When the snow started falling it impacted visibility,'' Abrams said. ``That combined with deicing delays have slowed our operations at both airports.''

Minnesota police reported 290 crashes during rush-hour traffic Tuesday. New York state troopers closed a section of Interstate 81 east of Oswego for an hour to remove cars and trucks that went off the road when blowing snow reduced visibility to zero. Ferry service across the Hudson River in upstate New York were suspended because the river began freezing over.

The cold and slippery roads had contributed to at least two deaths in Illinois, two deaths in Kentucky, two in Michigan, two in Ohio, and one each in Wisconsin, Maryland and Indiana, authorities said.