Arctic blast blankets Midwest with snow Disrupts flights across the USA

By Traci Watson

Fast-falling snow and strong winds disrupted plans for travelers trying to fly or drive through the Midwest on Monday, and several airlines said it would be at least Wednesday before they resume normal flights.

The storm, born of a blast of Arctic air that swept into the USA from Canada over the weekend, is expected to continue snarling travel in Michigan and Ohio today.

Three of the nation's largest carriers -- United, American and Northwest -- have hubs in the Midwest so delays and cancellations there have created travel headaches from California to New York.

United and American representatives said the problems would continue as bad weather moves east and the airlines recover from Monday's woes.

Meanwhile, the same weather system that brought cold to the Midwest also was chilling the Pacific Northwest.

That meant higher demand for energy in the region and less electricity available for sale to power-strapped California, where officials warned of an energy shortage.

As the snow fell Monday, natural gas prices hit a record high. Analysts said home heating bills would soon reflect the increase.

The cold air from Canada, combined with a storm system that probably was born near the Rockies, created ice and snow that coated much of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. 

The cold reached south to Texas and as far west as California, Washington and Oregon.

By midday Monday, United Airlines had canceled 364 of its 434 planned departures from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and 334 of its 434 planned arrivals. O'Hare is United's biggest hub.

American Airlines canceled more than half of its usual 1,000 flights into and out of O'Hare, its second-biggest hub. 

Northwest Airlines canceled 74 of its 535 flights out of Detroit Metropolitan-Wayne County Airport, its biggest hub. Northwest canceled nearly an equal number of arrivals.

It was no better trying to drive in many places, as the roads quickly began filling up with snow and ice.

 * Drivers on some highways in northeastern Illinois were moving at 30 mph at best, a state police spokesman said.

In Kansas City, Mo., ice and snow coated the roads.

 * In Detroit, where the National Weather Service was forecasting 6-10 inches of snow, the city planned a round-the-clock mobilization of its snow-moving fleet. Officials hope to avoid a repeat of 1999, when snow trapped people at home for days.

Monday's storm is expected to sweep into Canada in a few days, but not before dumping 8-12 inches of snow on Milwaukee and a foot of snow on northern Illinois.