Chicago was in the bullseye of a heavy winter storm that threatened to dump a foot of snow in some areas around the Great Lakes by Friday night, wreaking havoc on travelers, closing schools and forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights nationwide.
It was the first of a round of bruising storms pushing across the Rockies, Plains, Midwest and Northeast through the weekend.
By noon, more than 1,300 flights had been scrapped and another 1,390 delayed largely at Chicago O’Hare, Chicago Midway and Detroit, according to flight-tracking service FlightAware.
Cancellations: Airlines cancel 1,200+ flights as storm hits Midwest
The Midwest gets a blast of snow and ice
American, United, Delta and Southwest airlines warned travelers to expect more cancellations to and from Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
O’Hare is a major hub for both American and United while Midway is one of the busiest bases for Southwest. Detroit is a busy hub for Delta.
School shut down in Chicago, where snow was falling as fast as an inch per hour during the morning commute. The city deployed 300 plows and salt spreaders to clear its streets.
"Our city is tackling the first major snow storm we have seen in several years — and it's clear that Chicagoans are rising to the challenge," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "I ask everyone to keep exercising good judgment and remain indoors if at all possible, to take the warnings and advisories seriously, and to check on the well-being of family, friends and neighbors."
In addition, transportation departments in Illinois and Indiana dispatched fleets of snowplows and salt trucks as the region braced for up to a foot of snow.
In Michigan, more than 50 vehicles, including car and semi-trailer trucks, were involved in a pileup on icy I-94 east of Kalamazoo, according to local media.
The forecast called for a tapering off of the initial storm Saturday morning, with another winter storm poised to arrive Saturday night, bringing 3 to 5 more inches of snow through Sunday.
The National Weather Service said the significant winter storms threatened heavy snow, strong winds and dangerous travel from the northern Rockies to the Northern Plains and the upper Midwest through Sunday in some parts. Dangerously cold wind chills up to 35 degrees below zero are likely in the northern Plains, according to the NWS.
By Friday morning, the weather service had already received reports of between 9 and 11 inches of snow over a 24-hour period in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Eight inches was reported in parts of northern Illinois and up to 6 inches in the Chicago area.
Portions of northern Indiana were hit hard, with 8 inches reported in New Carlisle. Snow across southern and central Michigan ranged from 7 inches on the western side of the state to more than 2 inches in the Detroit area.
While less intense as it moves eastward, the storm is still expected to leave a few inches of snow over the northern tier, but will remain mostly north of major population centers like Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.
Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester could see from 3 to 6 inches, according to AccuWeather.com, and enough snow will fall around Albany, Burlington and Montreal to create hazardous driving conditions.