December 10, 2009 in Nation/World

Blizzards bury Midwest after mostly mild autumn

Luke Meredith Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

“I wish he was as much help as he thinks he is,” Hunter Leland said of his son, Quinn, 2, as the two cleared snow from their sidewalk Wednesday in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
(Full-size photo)

DES MOINES, Iowa – A gigantic storm dumped more than a foot of snow across much of the Midwest and New England as it marched eastward Wednesday, creating blizzard conditions, burying cars under huge drifts and providing ammunition for a massive campus snowball fight in Wisconsin.

Even more snow fell in some areas, with 16 inches reported in Des Moines and nearly 19 inches just south of Madison, Wis. Gusts of up to 50 mph created snow drifts between 8 and 15 feet tall and even knocked down a two-story Christmas tree in downtown Champaign, Ill.

The storm was blamed for at least 16 deaths, most in traffic accidents. Hundreds of schools canceled classes, power was knocked out to thousands of people from Missouri to New York and hundreds of flights were canceled.

The storm felt like a rude surprise after an unseasonably warm and dry November in parts of the region. The massive system is the first major blast of wintry weather for many parts of the Midwest.

“I’ve been dreading this day,” said Kim Brust, shoveling the sidewalk in front of his Minneapolis home before sunrise Wednesday. “I was starting to enjoy the global warming.”

While the snow was an inconvenience for many, others took an opportunity to play.

At least 3,000 University of Wisconsin-Madison students took advantage of an unplanned day off and hurled snowballs at each other in a massive melee. Classes had been canceled for the first time in 19 years due to more than a foot of snow and blizzard-like conditions.

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