Storm blankets West with heavy snowfall

RENO, Nev. — Yet another snowstorm pummeled parts of the West, snarling holiday traffic and briefly darkening lights on Christmas trees, and freezing rain covered some Midwest highways with a dangerous sheet of ice.

Winter storm warnings were issued today for parts of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas, and a blizzard warning was in effect for the mountains of southwest Colorado.

"It's going to be a heck of a storm," said Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, Colo. "We're expecting significant snowfall in all the mountains of Colorado. Even the valleys are going to see 4-plus inches of snow."

Up to 20 inches of snow was forecast in parts of the Rockies, along with wind gusts of up to 80 mph.

In the Midwest, most streets and highways in the Chicago area were ice-glazed. The Eisenhower Expressway — Interstate 290 — was closed for a time because of the ice, but the temperature was rising above the freezing point by midmorning.

The full length of the Indiana Toll Road, more than 150 miles, was shut down for about two hours this morning because it was "an entire sheet of ice" with numerous accidents, said state Trooper William Jones.

Heavy snow and whiteout conditions in the Sierra Nevada on Thursday led authorities to intermittently shut down Interstate 80, the main link between northern Nevada and Northern California.

The mountains around Lake Tahoe received about 2 feet of snow, bringing totals at some resorts in the past two weeks to 10 feet.

"This is one of the snowiest Christmas holiday periods I can remember," said Kent Hoopingarner, general manager at Homewood Mountain Resort.

That snow proved deadly for at least one skier Thursday, as an avalanche killed a 21-year-old man at the

Elsewhere in the Sierra, an avalanche killed a 21-year-old man Thursday at the Squaw Valley USA ski resort in California. A Utah avalanche killed two people earlier in the week.

In New Mexico, San Juan County got up to 5 inches of snow for its first white Christmas in 11 years, the weather service said.

"We were eating breakfast this morning and it was snowing. It was very Christmasy," said Farmington resident Kim Hamer, who went sledding with her husband and two sons.

Nearly a foot of snow in the Salt Lake City area blacked out about 10,000 customers Thursday morning. after nearly a foot of snow fell. North of Salt Lake, authorities closed Interstate 84 for a time near the Idaho state line.

Power was also knocked out in parts of Oregon on Thursday, affecting 19,000 customers of Portland General Electric, said PGE spokesman Steve Corson.

Farther north, the weight of snow, ice and water over the past week collapsed the roof of a high school in Olympia, Wash. There was severe water damage but no injuries, fire Lt. Ralph Dunbar said. In eastern Washington, Spokane reached a snowfall total for the month of 46.2 inches, a record for December, said Laurie Nisbet of the weather service.

Snow and ice weren't the only problems. The weather service confirmed that it was two small tornadoes on Christmas Eve that caused scattered damage in Alabama.

While roads were icy today, most air traffic had returned to normal Thursday after several days of delays and cancellations caused by the weather. A dozen flights were canceled Thursday at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, down from 100 the day before, the city's aviation department said.

Slippery roads have been blamed for seven deaths this week in Wisconsin; five in Ohio; four each in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri; two in Kansas, two in Michigan, and one apiece in Oklahoma, Iowa, Massachusetts and West Virginia.

In New Jersey, a 40-foot tree fell on a car and killed two people. Authorities weren't sure yet why the tree fell but said wind was blowing at about 40 mph at the time.

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