The worst storm to hit America since the 1880s brought blizzards, avalanches, high winds and floods to parts of the country yesterday and left three-quarters of North America covered with snow.
The Washington area was spared the worst of the 10-day-old storm, though three-to-five inches of new snow fell early yesterday, followed by sleet and freezing rain as temperatures rose to 30 degrees in the afternoon.
Low temperatures in the 20s this morning were expected to freeze the snow and slush remaining on the roadways, making driving conditions hazardous this morning. Temperatures today are expected to reach the mid-30s with a 20 percent chance of rain. Lows tonight are expected to dip into the teens, with high temperatures between 25 and 30 on Monday and little chance of precipitation.
The storm, which has been nicknamed the Siberian Express because it originated in the arctic region of the Soviet Union, brought flooding to parts of the Midwest. In Southern Indiana yesterday a 16-year-old girl was swept to her death by a swollen stream. In Indianapolis, city bus service was halted for only the second time in history.
Flooding also was reported in parts of Southern Illinois, where on Friday the water reached car-window height. House trailers were banned on Illinois state highways because of winds clocked at up to 30 mph.
Nine avalanches were reported in Utah ski country, trapping about 2,000 skiers at the Alta and Snowbird resorts in Little Cotton Canyon. At Snowbird, an avalanche brushed an employe housing building but no injuries were reported.
"People sometimes wonder about our architecture, with the thick walls and granite--that's the reason," said a Snowbird spokesman. Snow in that area was so deep that snowplows were called off the roads in some areas and all but emergency travel was banned.
In the Washington area, residents again awoke to a fresh cover of ice-crusted snow. Scores of minor traffic accidents were reported as highways and main roads remained slippery throughout the day.
Metrorail service at the Silver Spring and Takoma Park Red Line Metro stops was suspended for two hours between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., when rail switches at the two stations froze, said a Metro spokesman. During the two-hour shutdown, subway riders were bused from the two closed stations to the Fort Totten station, where they could continue their journey by rail.
Minor problems due to freezing were also reported on the Blue and Orange lines, though the subway ran on its usual Saturday schedule.
In the District, 139 snowplows carrying salt and sand rumbled through the streets. Officials said they expected to have all major streets in the city plowed by 9 p.m. last night.
This week the city received 10,000 tons of salt to replenish its supplies and nearly 60 trucks from area contractors were brought in to assist in the cleanup effort, as city transportation employes worked around the clock.
In the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, police said roads were dangerous. "The roads out there are so bad, we're just advising people to stay home and take it easy," said a Virginia state police dispatcher in Alexandria.
Transportation officials said yesterday that all lanes of the 14th Street bridge, some of which have been closed since the Air Florida jetliner crash on Jan. 13, opened last night.
Snowslides buried a highway on the slopes of Mount Hood in Oregon about 60 miles east of Portland and closed passes on two Washington highways late Friday night. At Snoqualmie, Wash., an unidentified driver of a pickup truck escaped without injury when his vehicle was engulfed by an avalanche.
The snow cover across Minnesota reached 40 inches in some places after a snowfall yesterday of up to 18 inches. Blizzard warnings were posted in that state, along with northwest Wisconsin and the eastern Dakotas--where the Weather Service said travel was virtually impossible. Weather officials also were expecting blizzards in Iowa, where the wind chill factor reached 70 degrees below zero.
In Michigan, icy roads made driving dangerous for thousands of visitors pouring into the Detroit area for today's Super Bowl showdown between the Cincinnati Bengals and the San Francisco 49ers. The Detroit airport shut down for about an hour yesterday morning due to icy runways, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula was cut off from the Lower Peninsula when state officials Friday night closed down the Mackinac Bridge, which remained closed yesterday.
"It's storming real bad here," said Michigan State Police Sgt. Basil Onyderman from his post in St. Ignace on the northern end of the bridge. "We have winds over 40 miles per hour and the visibility is down to zero."
Near Traverse City, Mich., rescue workers on snowmobiles came to the aid of about 200 motorists trapped by snowdrifts as high as nine feet. "There are all kinds of cars on the roads and there's just no way to get to them," said state police Sgt. Duane Girard.
In South Dakota, where up to 20 inches of snow fell, travel was forbidden in much of the central and eastern parts of the state. Officials in Vermillion said drivers who ventured onto the road would be arrested.
Up to 15 flights were also canceled on Friday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport after ice caused a fire that destroyed circuits feeding a hangar area, airport officials said. Also on Friday, a tornado wrecked a discount store in Hot Springs, Ark. Several homes and cars were also damaged, but no injuries were reported.