Milwaukee The first major snowstorm of an unseasonably warm winter in the Midwest snarled traffic from Missouri to Wisconsin on Thursday and brought badly-needed business to ski areas and idled snow plow operators.
The storm dumped several inches of wet snow on northeastern Wisconsin and western Iowa before moving eastward and to start blanketing Milwaukee, St. Louis and Chicago, which was expected to get up to eight inches by Friday morning.
In almost any other year, such a storm would hardly register in an area of the country unfazed by a white Thanksgiving. But La Nina effects have kept cold air bottled up over Canada, contributing to the Midwest's unusually warm winter.
The dry weather has been an unexpected boon to many cash-strapped communities, which have saved on the big expense of plowing, salting and sanding their streets. But it's hurt seasonable businesses that bank on the snow.
"If people don't see it in their yards they are not likely to come out and ski and snowboard so this is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful for us," said Kim Engel, owner of Sunburst Ski area in Kewaskum in southeastern Wisconsin, as she watched the snow come down out the window.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Paul Collar said two to four inches of snow fell by Thursday afternoon over eastern Iowa, lower Michigan, upper Illinois, southern Wisconsin and northwest Indiana, with four to eight expected when the storm is done Friday morning.
The snow also contributed to hundreds of accidents and at least three deaths on Missouri and Iowa roads.
One person died in a one-vehicle wreck on Interstate 55 in Jefferson County, south of St. Louis, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said. The victim's name was not immediately released.
According to the Iowa State Patrol, Randall Jones, 62, of Henderson, died in a head-on crash near Malvern in Mills County in western Iowa late Wednesday afternoon. Another person was killed Thursday morning near Muscatine.
Airlines canceled more than 425 flights at Chicago airports by Thursday afternoon. More than 325 flights were canceled delays to and from the East Coast averaged 20 minutes, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation. Southwest Airlines has canceled all flights in and out of Midway International Airport, totaling more than 100 flights or 25 percent of the airport's flights.
Travelers may be unhappy, but not snow plow driver Rob Moser of Elkhart, Ind.
"I love it. I make money plowing snow and I'm all about snowmobiling, so I love it," Moser said. "We haven't had enough snow to do much."
Associated Press writers Jim Salter in St. Louis, Carla K. Johnson and Caryn Rousseau in Chicago, Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., and Melanie Welte in Des Moines, Iowa contributed to this report.