December 14, 2010 in Nation/World

‘Whiteout’ snows trap motorists

Tom Coyne Associated Press
Associated Press photo

A woman walks along Lake Michigan in Chicago as large waves pound the shore Monday, after a winter storm pummeled Illinois over the weekend.
(Full-size photo)

LAPORTE, Ind. – More than 100 vehicles were stuck Monday on Indiana’s snow-covered highways. Strong winds and blowing snow hampered snowplow drivers’ efforts to free them, but all motorists had been safely rescued by Monday evening, said Amy Bluhm, a dispatcher with LaPorte County 911.

The wind and heavy lake-effect snow were part of a slow-moving storm that has been crawling across the Midwest since Friday night. At least 16 deaths have been attributed to the storm, which dumped nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin before moving into Michigan and Indiana. Monday, it stretched further east, with snow in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Up to 16 inches of snow fell in northwest Indiana, where 70 drivers got stuck in drifts on a section of Indiana 2 in the Valparaiso area.

“It was a whiteout. It was like a tornado of snow,” said Kate Ergang, who was trapped overnight on U.S. 30 with her friend Allison Frank for nearly 12 hours after two semitrailers jackknifed at an interchange.

Indiana State Police Lt. Lou Brown said some people made the situation worse by driving on roads that were closed or abandoning vehicles that got stuck.

“People would get into a snowdrift and couldn’t go anywhere so they’d just leave the vehicle to get out of the weather,” he said. “It just plugs things up and then snowplows can’t get around them.”

Along with the wind and snow, the upper Midwest was gripped by bone-chilling cold brought by arctic air that swept in behind the storm. Wind chills were below zero in many places Monday, and schools in Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states shut down.

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