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Storm brings heavy snowfalls to Midwest, Northeast

Ice covers the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago where temperatures have dropped well below freezing, December 12, 2013. REUTERS/John Gress
Ice covers the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago where temperatures have dropped well below freezing, December 12, 2013. REUTERS/John Gress

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Another round of wintry weather battered the U.S. Midwest and East Coast on Saturday as a massive storm spanning more than 1,000 miles dumped heavy snow, snarling air traffic and making roads treacherous.

Airlines reported weather-related delays and cancellations, with major airports in Chicago, Washington, New York City and Newark, New Jersey, scrubbing dozens of flights, according to the Federal Aviation Administration and FlightStats.com.

Nearly 1,000 U.S. flights were cancelled on Saturday, FlightAware.com said.

The fast-moving snowstorm stretched from Missouri to Maine, as steady rain fell in the southeastern states.

"A band of very heavy snow with snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches an hour will move from south to north across northern New England tonight," said Brooke Taber, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

The heaviest accumulation was expected in central Pennsylvania, New York state and interior New England, which could see from 4 to 8 inches of snow. Mountainous areas and parts of eastern Maine could be walloped by 14 inches of snow.

Snow expected to change to freezing rain in parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut could accumulate to a quarter-inch (6.5 mm) of ice, according to the National Weather Service.

By 3 p.m. EST on Saturday, areas of north-central Illinois reported 7 inches of snow over the past 24 hours, while the town of Warsaw, New York, near Lake Ontario, reported 21 inches, the National Weather Service said.

Up to six inches of accumulation was expected in major cities on the East Coast, forecasters said.

The same region was slammed a week ago by another massive storm system that left parts of the Mid-Atlantic and East Coast shoveling out from a half-foot of snow.

OUTAGE CONCERNS

Utility companies across the region put extra crews on duty and made preparations for possible outages.

The driving snow was a sobering reality check for an expected 35,000 pub crawlers dressed like Santa Claus, who came to New York for the annual SantaCon. The revelers wore Santa suits or red minidresses with white trim and nearly all had Kris Kringle hats topped with a white pom-pom.

The precipitation and freezing temperatures made roads and highways treacherous for drivers. Michigan State Police said they had handled 20 crashes since midnight, including one fatal accident.

In Missouri, icy conditions were blamed for a fatal crash Saturday morning. An 80-year-old man died when his car skidded off a rural highway and struck a tree near Deepwater, in the western part of the state, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said.

The snowstorm comes on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year and during one of the shortest holiday buying seasons, with only four weeks separating Thanksgiving and Christmas.

At a shopping mall north of Philadelphia, schoolteacher Amanda Nixon, 30, arrived early in the day with her 9-year-old daughter hoping to get errands done before the snow picked up.

"We like the snow," she said. "We just don't like to drive in it."

Nixon said she thought other shoppers would put off holiday gift buying because of the second weekend of bad weather.

"I think a lot of people are nervous that this is going to be another big one," she said.

The winter weather is expected to continue through the early part of next week, as snow and winds from 10 to 20 miles per hour (16 to 32 kilometers per hour) are forecast for much of the East Coast, the weather service said.

(Additional reporting by Dave Warner in Philadelphia, Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Kevin Murphy in Kansas City.; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Vicki Allen, Gunna Dickson, Colleen Jenkins and Eric Walsh)

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