Trending around the country as the the “Great Midwest Blizzard,” an intense weather system has caused chaos as it has cut power to tens of thousands of homes and forced schools to shut down from Nebraska to southern Wisconsin on Thursday.
The blinding snow is also reportedly to blame for for a 30-car pileup on Interstate 35 near Fort Dodge, Iowa, in which one person died, Sgt. Scott Bright of the Iowa State Patrol, told reporters Wednesday.
Forecasters predict the Midwest could see an additional foot of wet, heavy snow, accompanied by winds of up to 50 mph, reducing visibility to just about zero.
According to a CNN report, utility crews in Omaha, Nebraska struggled overnight to restore power to 38,500 customers who were left in the dark by the storm.
"Assessment crews and repair crews are out in force and will be as long as it takes to get through the storm and all is cleaned up," Omaha Public Power District spokeswoman Paula Lukowski told reporters.
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In addition, CNN reports that more than 30,000 customers were without power, most of them in the Des Moines area.
CNN iReporter Clarence Smith in Des Moines said it was the most snow he'd seen since 2009 -- and he warns that its wet, heavy consistency was going to add to the challenges for motorists.
"I was just cleaning off my car and it is so wet, it is like plaster. It doesn't come off easily," he said. "At one point I was hitting it with a snow scraper, you can say chiseling, basically."
Additional Midwest blizzard reports indicate that weather conditions have prompted the cancellation of 400 flights into and out of Chicago O'Hare, as snow and wind are expected to complicate travel and cancel more flights.
ABC News reports that Southwest Airlines is canceling all departures and arrivals at Midway Airport as of 4 p.m. local time. On a typical day, the airline has between 200-220 flights in and out of Midway, according to the news network.
Southwest will also cancel all arrivals and departures from the Milwaukee Airport as of 6 p.m. local time. Southwest has 35 flights in and out of Milwaukee.
Airlines have prepared policies to accommodate travelers who are affected by the blizzard. Ticketholders with flights into, out of and through affected areas to change their plans without penalty. For example, travelers headed to O'Hare Thursday on American Airlines can change their flight to any day, Dec. 21 to Dec. 25. Delta, United and others have similar policies.
Passengers are also entitled to a refund if their flight is canceled.