Ice storm snaps power lines, closes schools in Midwest - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ice storm snaps power lines, closes schools in Midwest

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Schools closed for thousands of youngsters, Iowa's biggest airport shut down and thick layers of ice brought down more power lines Tuesday as a major ice storm glazed the nation's midsection.

At least 23 deaths had been blamed on the storm system since the waves of sleet and freezing rain started during the weekend.

Officials in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma had declared states of emergency, and hundreds of thousands of people had been blacked out.

Iowa's largest school district closed for the day in Des Moines, telling its nearly 31,000 students to stay home, and kids across most of Oklahoma stayed home for a second day.

Schools also were closed in parts of Wisconsin, including Milwaukee Public Schools with 85,000 students. "We thought about our kids on foot," said Milwaukee schools spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin. Some drivers couldn't even get to their buses, she said.

About an inch of ice was expected Tuesday over parts of Iowa, followed by up to 5 inches of sleet and snow. "It's a pretty good ice-maker," said Frank Boksa, a National Weather Service forecaster.

Ice as much as an inch thick had accumulated on trees, power lines, streets and car windshields Monday in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

More than a half-million Oklahoma homes and businesses still had no electricity Tuesday, most of them since Monday when power lines began snapping under the weight of ice and falling branches - the biggest power outage in state history. Utilities in Missouri reported more than 100,000 homes and business without power and Kansas' biggest provider, Westar Energy, said some 25,000 were blacked out.

"This is a big one. We've got a massive situation here and it's probably going to be a week to 10 days before we get power on to everybody," said Ed Bettinger, a spokesman for Public Service Company of Oklahoma. "It looks like a war zone."

Iowa's two major utilities reported over 17,000 customers without power Tuesday.

The storm even put a crimp on presidential campaigning, with Republican Mike Huckabee canceling stops in western Iowa and former President Bill Clinton calling off appearances in eastern Iowa on behalf of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Des Moines International Airport closed because of ice late Monday and could be closed most of Tuesday, said spokesman Roy Criss. The airport, which also was shut down by winter weather two weeks ago, has 138 arrivals and departures per day, he said.

"This rain keeps refreezing. We put chemicals down, it melts and the freezes again. We can't stay ahead of it," Criss said. "This is not fun."

Many travelers also were grounded at Chicago, where about 250 flights were canceled Tuesday morning at O'Hare International Airport and departure delays averaging 15 to 30 minutes, said Karen Pride of the city's Department of Aviation. 

Kansas City International Airport had canceled most incoming flights Monday night.       Southeastern Nebraska also had power outages Tuesday and some flights in and out of Omaha's Eppley Airfield were canceled.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers sent 50 generators and three truckloads of bottled water from Texas to distribute to blacked-out areas of Oklahoma.

At least 23 deaths - most of them in traffic accidents - had been blamed on the ice and cold since the weekend, including 16 in Missouri, four in Kansas, and three in Missouri.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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