Miguel Sanchez, 16, flies off his sled as he goes off a ramp of snow today while sledding with friends in Garden City, Kan.
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MINNEAPOLIS — A major winter storm turned Midwest commutes into treacherous challenges today before the system petered out over the Great Lakes.
At least four deaths were linked to the storm, including three from traffic accidents, brought on by gusty winds and snow-covered roadways.
Places in Kansas and Missouri saw a foot or more of snow on Thursday, and spent today digging out and clearing its miles of roadways. Impressive totals included 18 inches in the southern Kansas town of Zenda; 17 inches in Hays, Kan.; 13 ½ inches in northeast Missouri and south-central Nebraska; and 12 inches in parts of Kansas City, Mo.
The system lost strength as it moved north and east today. Illinois' totals ranged from 7.5 inches in west-central Rushville to a mix of sleet and freezing rain in the St. Louis, Mo., suburbs. The town of Truman in southern Minnesota received 8 inches.
Eulas Henderson was in no hurry this morning while clearing still-falling snow from the sidewalk outside his Detroit home. Even as he shoveled, Henderson's work was being covered.
"It's not frustrating. I enjoy it. It's the normal thing to do in the winter time," said Henderson, a 56-year-old security guard.
The storm also brought fresh snow for the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race, which is expected to draw a record field of more than 13,000 competitors and another 15,000 spectators to the northern Wisconsin city of Cable.
"It's snowing real hard and I'm seeing all kinds of cars in the ditch," said Leslie Maclin, a skier from Evanston, Ill. But she was expecting good conditions for the race Saturday.
The Minnesota State Patrol blamed the snow for over 500 accidents today. One driver was killed when she lost control, came to a stop in oncoming traffic and was broadsided by another vehicle in a St. Paul suburb.
A 12-year-old boy died from injuries suffered in a collision on an icy highway in northern Nebraska on Thursday. A western Iowa woman was run over Thursday by her car, which had gotten stuck on her steep, slippery driveway. And a 70-year-old woman from Wichita, Kan., died after her car slid and collided with a train.
In Ohio, which was clipped by the storm, a United plane slid off a slick runway at the Cleveland airport onto a grassy area, but no injuries were reported.
In some locations, the storm didn't live up to the hype. At the Pilot Flying J station near Interstate 29 in southwest Iowa, shift manager Kelly Malone said today his company had taken precautions for employees by reserving rooms at the Super 8 Motel.
"We were prepared for the worst, but it didn't happen that bad," he said. Iowa's snow totals topped out at 9.7 inches near Sioux City.
"To me it was just an average storm, but I'm a person who drives through anything," he said.