A winter storm moving across the Great Lakes which is forecast to drop about a foot of snow in some areas has created treacherous driving conditions, closed schools and forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights.
The US National Weather Service issued winter weather warnings and advisories across the upper Midwest. The snow that began falling late on Thursday afternoon is expected to continue throughout Friday as the storm moves east.
As of Friday morning, the National Weather Service received reports of between 9in and 11in of snow over a 24-hour period in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Eight inches was reported in parts of northern Illinois and about 6in was reported in the Chicago area.
Portions of northern Indiana were hit hard, with 8in reported in New Carlisle. Snow across southern and central Michigan ranged from 7in on the western side of the state to more than 2in in the Detroit area.
Skids and crashes were reported on the roads in the Chicago and Detroit areas. A multi-vehicle crash closed a stretch of eastbound Interstate 94 near Ann Arbor, but no severe injuries were reported.
About 730 flights were cancelled at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and about 265 flights were cancelled at Midway, the Chicago Department of Aviation reported. More than 200 flights were cancelled at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus, Michigan.
American, United, Delta and Southwest airlines warned travellers to expect more flight cancellations to and from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Meteorologist Heather Orow, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said the storm is “generally going to be an issue for travel”. People should stay off the roads if possible, but if they drive they should expect delays and hazardous conditions, she said.
The expectation of up to 12in around Chicago prompted officials to close the city’s public schools to about 390,000 students. Classes were also cancelled in the city’s suburbs.
Court closures were reported in Chicago and Detroit, and driver’s licence offices were shut in the Chicago area.
Schools in Detroit shut for the day along with Wayne State University in Detroit and other schools across Michigan in the path of the storm. The Detroit area was in line for 6in to 9in of snow.
Students in the Milwaukee Public School District — Wisconsin’s largest school district — have Friday off, as well hundreds of other schools. Schools across Nebraska and Iowa have closed or delayed the start of classes as snow and subzero wind chills rake the region.
AAA Michigan recommended that drivers stay off the road if possible.