As Winter Storm Harper swept across the Midwest, meteorologists warned motorists to stay home for good reason.
Anywhere from three inches to almost one foot fell across the heart of the Midwest, which mixed with rain, freezing drizzle, blowing snow, and limited visibility. As Winter Storm Harper moved on toward the Northeast, Midwesterners were left with frigid and dangerous temperatures.
Thousands of flights were canceled at various airports, including Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Accidents involving snowplows were reported, according to AccuWeather. Four snowplows were hit by other vehicles in Minnesota while a snowplow driver in Kansas City, Missouri, was killed in a single vehicle rollover accident.
“If you have to travel during the storm, make sure you give plows and emergency vehicles wide access,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said.
After the storm blanketed the Midwest with snow, a state of emergency was declared in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before the storm arrived. That move included vehicle restrictions on highways located across the state. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a tractor-trailer and bus ban for most highways in the state, as well as the entire thruway system, excluding I-95 in Westchester and Bronx counties.
“Feet of snow, blizzard conditions, a significant build-up of ice, tree-breaking winds and plunging temperatures will close roads, cause flight cancellations and disrupt daily activities over a large part of the northeastern United States this weekend,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
Some areas were left without power and, when combined with the brutally cold air, meant people’s lives were at stake. In Des Moines, Iowa, emergency shelters were set up for those without heat and power. The brutal cold dropped temperatures down to around 40 below zero in International Falls, Minnesota, and continues to plunge on the backside of the storm from the Plains out to the Northeast through Sunday into Monday.
Stretches of major interstates including I-80 in Iowa and I-55 in Missouri were shut down for periods of time due to crashes, as well as major thoroughfares in Arkansas. In Omaha, Nebraska, an airplane slid off the runway at Eppley Airfield, forcing the airport to close for a period of time.
The storm will wrap up Sunday evening for the most part, although bands of lake-effect snow will continue to blow in off of lakes Erie and Ontario into Monday.
Meteorologists believe that some schools out east that have not already closed for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday may have to take a snow day anyway.