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Ice, snow disrupt travel for the third day in a row

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 14, 2000


Frustrating travelers for the third day in a row, a new storm spread ice and snow across the nation's midsection Wednesday, grounding planes, closing schools and government offices and sending cars skidding into each other.

At least five traffic deaths were blamed on the weather Wednesday, one each in Texas and Arkansas and three in Indiana.

The new round of ice and wind knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in the South. Snow piled up 13 inches deep in parts of Oklahoma.

The bad weather also caused a new round of flight cancellations at Chicago's airports, where operations were just getting back to normal after Monday's snowstorm.

Jim Kanik and a business partner got a call early in the day from TWA telling them their return flight from St. Louis to Chicago, where they left earlier in the week, could be canceled by the worsening weather.

"We fought our way out of Chicago and now we have to fight our way out of here," Kanik said.

The heavy weather came while the upper Midwest was still digging out from Monday's snowstorm and the Northeast was still picking up the pieces after Tuesday's windstorm. Both storms made a mess of air travel around the country.

On Wednesday, the bad weather forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights in and out of St. Louis; Dallas-Fort-Worth; Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; Little Rock, Ark.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Oklahoma City.

Dozens of stranded travelers spent Tuesday night at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. "The floor was hard and cold, it was drafty, the blanket wasn't warm enough and the pillow was too bloody weak," complained Peter Cate.

Highways were no better than the airports. Pileups included a chain-reaction wreck of about 15 trucks and cars on Interstate 55 at West Memphis, Ark. An undetermined number of motorists were injured.

Many drivers gave up and headed indoors.

"We are packed wall-to-wall with people," said Lisa Helm, vice president of the Big Cabin Truck Plaza on Interstate 44 at Big Cabin, Okla. "We have our restaurant packed to the max. We converted our barber shop into a makeshift restaurant."

Some government workers were told to stay home because of the slippery roads in Oklahoma and Arkansas. Snow and ice also closed hundreds of schools in Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Louisiana and Illinois.

An estimated 200,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in Texas, along with more than 123,000 customers in Arkansas and 105,000 in Louisiana, where utility officials said it could be a week or more before everyone gets the lights back on. The outage shut down Shreveport's water treatment plant and residents were urged to conserve water.

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