Huge storm grounds US flights, interrupts shipping
By Mira Oberman (AFP) – 21 hours ago
CHICAGO — Dangerous winds grounded hundreds of flights and interrupted shipping traffic on the Great Lakes Tuesday as a massive storm system whipped the central United States and left tens of thousands without power.
Some 13 tornadoes were reported in five states as near hurricane-force winds ripped roofs off homes, damaged businesses and knocked down trees and power lines, the National Weather Service said.
The storm raced across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana in the morning, then ravaged Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky by midday and was forecast to then strike Canada and eastern states later on.
“It’s really blasting up there,” said Pat Slattery, a weather service spokesman.
“It’s going to blow and it’s liable to last through tomorrow.”
The intense low-pressure system was reaching levels equivalent to a category 2 or 3 hurricane and would likely set records in several states, Slattery said.
Very strong winds “will allow the thunderstorms to organize into bands that will be capable of producing swaths of damaging winds and a few strong tornadoes,” the weather service warned.
“State and local emergency managers are monitoring this potentially very dangerous situation.”
The powerful winds forced some schools to close and snarled the morning commute.
“I didn’t even try to use my umbrella,” said Chicago resident Mara Davis, 33, who was woken up several times in the night by the storm.
“The buses were running so slow, I opted for a cab. And it took forever because the roads were so bad.”
Ships headed for safe harbor ahead of the storm which was predicted to kick up massive waves reaching as high as 27 feet (eight meters) on Lake Superior and 12 feet (3.7 meters) on Lake Michigan.
“We have three lakers that have come in and are docked for the day,” said Adele Yorde, spokeswoman for the Duluth (Minnesota) Seaway Port Authority. “There are a couple thousand footers that we know of at anchor just outside the harbor. They’ll be waiting out the storm there.”
While the weather service was able to give boat captains ample warning of the oncoming storm, some were too far from port and will instead drop anchor in the lake and “position themselves so that they’re not being broadsided by those waves,” Yorde told AFP.
More than 500 flights were cancelled at O’Hare and those still set to land or depart were experiencing delays of about 45 minutes, officials said.
“A ground stop was in effect at O’Hare earlier today, meaning that there were no departures but there were arriving flights,” spokeswoman Karen Pride said.
“The airport was never closed.”
Flights were also grounded at several other regional airports.
The same storm system also led to blizzard warnings in North Dakota and forecasts of two feet (60 centimeters) of snow or more in the mountains of Colorado and Utah.
Environment Canada forecast that the “unseasonably intense” storm would reach Northern Ontario by Tuesday night and bring powerful winds and one to two inches (two to four centimeters) of rain.
“As ever colder air blasts into areas near the Manitoba border Wednesday the rain will change over to wet snow Wednesday night with a couple centimeters of the white stuff expected,” Environment Canada said.
Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.
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