By Elizabeth Weise and John Bacon
A furious winter storm was marching east Tuesday after slamming the Midwest, bearing down on Washington, D.C., where 475 flights due to fly in or out of Dulles International airport Wednesday had already been canceled.
Earlier Tuesday, snow was "pouring down" in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Ill., said Mohammed Azzi, who works at the Maywood Mart gas station and convenience store a block from Interstate 290. "It's jam-packed out there," he said of the evening commute. "There's too much snow in the parking lot. It's hard to get around."
Customers were buying up all the windshield scrapers. People were worried they would not get home, Azzi said.
The storm is beginning to wind down in Chicago and should end by around 3 a.m. Wednesday, said Kevin Roth, a meteorologist with the Weather Channel. The town of La Grange Park in the city's western suburbs got 11 inches of snow, according to Weather Channel meteorologists.
Next in line for the storm's wrath are Indianapolis and Cincinnati, both of which are getting snow now, Roth said.
At the Kroger supermarket on East 10th street in Indianapolis, Ind. customers were coming in all day to stock up before the storm hit, said Brooke Nicholson, who works in the customer service department. "We had a pretty busy day today," she said. "People were filling up two cart fulls of stuff."
In Newport, Ky. the snow arrived just after dinnertime, about two hours earlier than local weather forecasters had predicted. Business at the Newport Pizza Company was brisk Tuesday night, said manager Patrick Kenyon. The restaurant is just across the Ohio river from Cincinnati. "A lot of people were in here getting pizzas before it hit and we had a lot of deliveries from people who didn't want to go out in it once it started snowing hard."
Among his customers the storm's big a big topic of conversation. "Everybody's been talking about it, everybody's thinking about it," he said. "I think everybody's ready for spring."
The storm next will head through West Virginia and Virginia. Snow will begin to fall in the western suburbs of Washington, D.C., by 11 p.m. Tuesday and in the city itself by 1 a.m. Wednesday, Roth said. "Then there will be some really heavy snow between 2 and 3 in the morning, probably lasting at least until noon."
While earlier predictions were that the snow levels in the Washington area would be in the 5- to 8-inch range, colder temperatures mean meteorologists now put that between 8 and 12 inches in the city and perhaps more than a foot near Dulles airport, Roth said.
By Thursday, the storm will hit New Jersey and New York but shouldn't drop too much snow as it moves through the region, Roth said. However, current weather models have it stalling when it reaches the Atlantic, which could mean longer snowfall in New England. "So the highest snow totals for this storm could come out of" that area, he said.
There are two storm systems at work, one centered over Illinois and another over Kentucky, but they're tied together, said Bruce Sullivan, meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The Illinois storm is slowly fading but as it moves east it will connect with the Kentucky system.
"That one over Kentucky is going to be taking over and it's going to strengthen overnight as it moves south and east," Sullivan said.
That strengthened storm is what's going to wallop Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and into Thursday.
As the storm heads east, "It's not going to be a fluffy snow," National Weather Service spokesman Chris Vaccaro warned. "It will be thick, gloppy, wallpaper paste-type snow. And gusty winds will add to the stress."
Charlottesville, Va., two hours southwest of Washington, could be among the hardest-hit areas.
Martin Hardware was ready for the rush of last-minute shovel shoppers.
"We are prepared," said Dinah Jarrell, co-manager of the century-old store. She said the store has thousands of snow shovels and a tractor trailer full of ice melt.
"They've been calling for snow all winter, but we haven't actually had much yet," Jarrell said. "People have been skeptical, but they are coming in now. And I hate to say it, but we are delighted."
As of 11:30 p.m. ET Tuesday 1,809 flights had been cancelled and 5,057 delayed in the United States over the course of the day, according to flight-tracking firm FlightStats.com. For Wednesday 1,141 flights had already been cancelled in advance of the storm, mostly out of Dulles and Reagan airports in the Washington D.C., area, FlightStats' numbers showed.
North and South Dakota and Minnesota took the brunt of the storm Monday. Late Tuesday it was winding down in Minneapolis, and KARE-TV meteorologist Sven Sundgaard said final totals for the region would range from 6 to 10 inches.
The weather service said Grand Forks, N.D., got 7 inches Monday, a record for the date. Minot, N.D., not only got a foot of snow but also set a rainfall record, as did Williston. Williston also got 6 inches of snow.
The snow could lead to power outages in portions of North Carolina, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.