Colossal storm roars through nation's heartland

CHICAGO – A winter weather colossus roared into the nation's heartland Tuesday, laying down a paralyzing punch of dangerous ice and whiteout snow that served notice from Texas to Maine that the storm billed as the worst in decades could live up to the hype.

Ice-covered streets were deserted in Super Bowl host city Dallas. Whiteouts shut down Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Chicago expected 2 feet of snow, Indianapolis an inch of ice, and the Northeast still more ice and snow in what's shaping up to be a record winter for the region.

Winds topped 60 mph in Texas. The newspaper in Tulsa, Okla., canceled its print edition for the first time in more than a century. The storm also led Chicago officials to close the city's busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive while crews tried to plow snow Tuesday night. City officials said the move was temporary but that they could have to close it again if high winds push 25-foot waves from nearby Lake Michigan onto the roadway.

Cities across middle America shut down hours ahead of the snow. Advice to stay home was followed widely. Thousands of office workers in Chicago's famous downtown Loop district left early to avoid any transit troubles. At the city's elegant apartment buildings closest to Lake Michigan, employees weren't fazed by the storm, but they kept an eye on the lakefront nonetheless. The management at Butler's building called in extra employees for the storm. "If you're a true Chicagoan, you don't back down from this kind of storm." For the first time in history, the state of Missouri shut down Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Kansas City due to a winter storm.

"The roads are just pure white. Nothing," said Kristi Strait, who was working at Clinton Discount Building Materials in Clinton, Mo.

Meteorologist Jeff Johnson of the National Weather Service in Des Moines said the storm was sure to "cripple transportation for a couple of days." The snow and the wind were a dangerous combination, even in areas where not that much snow was expected.

It's a good night to stay home," he said.

The storm was so bad in Polk County, 200 miles west of St. Louis, that emergency officials requested help from the National Guard because local officials did not have enough vehicles to get the elderly and shut-ins to shelter if the power went out.

In state capitols across the Midwest and East, lawmakers cut short their workweek because of the storm. Normally bustling downtown streets were quiet, too. The bakery Chez Monet in downtown Jefferson City was open, adding hot oatmeal for chilled customers. Owner Joan Fairfax said she road to work without trouble. Both of Oklahoma's major airports were closed. Outside Tulsa, at the Hard Rock Casino, the snow caused the partial collapse of a roof, but no injuries were reported.

In Texas, thousands of people lost electricity during the frigid conditions. Utility company Oncor reported nearly 27,000 customers without power statewide, with nearly half of the outages in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Six trailers stocked with wire, replacement lines and other supplies were dispatched to possible trouble spots.

The storm was expected to roll into the Northeast on Wednesday, bringing still more snow to a winter-weary region. The NFL managed to stick to its Super Bowl schedule, holding media activities at Cowboys Stadium in suburban Arlington as planned.

Green Bay Packers fans Dieter Sturm and Mark Madson postponed plans to drive from Wisconsin to the Super Bowl in a Cadillac convertible, but said they planned to leave Wednesday morning if possible.

"We love driving in the snow," said Sturm, who works making snow for movies and commercials. "We love having the snow fall on top of us. In Ryan Stratton's house in the northern Oklahoma town of Bartlesville, nine children and nine adults crowded together to play video games, at least as long as the electricity stayed on.

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