Chicago The Midwest's first big storm of the season blew in Monday with cold and heavy snow, snarling air travel around the country and giving thousands of children a day off from school.
"I used to like snow and ice skating and stuff like that, but this is crazy," John Alaniz said on a Chicago corner, a black fur hat with ear flaps almost concealing his face as snow blew through the streets.
More than 10 inches of snow had fallen in parts of the Chicago area by evening with 30 mph wind gusts expected to cause whiteout conditions in parts of northern Illinois, National Weather Service meteorologist Mark Ratzer said.
Forecasters warned of blizzard conditions in what was the biggest storm in the Chicago area since the city was buried by 21 inches of snow in January 1999.
And behind the storm: bitterly cold temperatures approached. Wind chills of 30 to 40 degrees below zero were expected.
"When it starts to drop, it will be pretty quick," Ratzer said. "It looks like it's going to be very sudden and very significant."
Blizzard warnings were posted elsewhere in the region, with 20 inches of snow possible by this morning in northern Indiana and southwestern Michigan, the National Weather Service said.
In South Bend, Ind., where 6 inches had fallen by nightfall, officials were asking drivers to avoid any nonemergency travel, Police Capt. John Williams said.
"You can see people out riding around who have no business being out there," he said.
Temperatures were chilly as far south as Texas; in parts of the state the mercury dropped into the single digits with wind chills as low as 18 below zero.
That would have amounted to a warm spell for folks in North Dakota, who endured wind chills of 51 below zero.
Blowing snow and cold closed schools in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Farther south, icy roads kept youngsters home in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, which had hundreds of traffic accidents.
Spotty power outages were reported across Iowa and in a rural part of Illinois.
Students at St. Clement School on Chicago's North Side were told shortly before noon that classes were canceled for the rest of the day and today.
"Everybody just jumped up. We were so excited!" said 7-year-old Margaret Anne Kellas, a second-grader whose plans included holding a snowball fight and making a snowman family.
Less excited were the thousands of travelers stranded when Chicago's Midway and O'Hare airports two of the busiest hubs in America canceled about 75 percent of departing flights, affecting connections to many other parts of the nation.
By afternoon, United Airlines had canceled 363 of 434 scheduled departures at O'Hare and had 742 weather cancellations systemwide out of 2,300 flights, according to a recording at the airline's headquarters.
American Airlines canceled nearly 550 of its 700 flights in and out of O'Hare, a spokeswoman said. Flights also were canceled at Milwaukee's airport, and Delta called off flights between Chicago and Atlanta.
About 362 Northwest flights coming in and out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport were canceled Monday night, airline spokesman Matt Friedman said.
Andre Sanchez of Los Angeles headed to the airport in Chicago anyway, hoping there would still be a flight out.
"We brought games and other things; what else can you do?" said Sanchez, 46, who was traveling with his wife and three daughters.