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Storm spares Chicago as mild winter nears another record

Published: Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 8:01 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — For the second time in less than a week, a major winter storm is battering the Midwest. And once again Chicago has been spared and may break another record for mild temperatures this winter.

Blizzard warnings have been issued for southern Illinois and parts of Indiana and Kentucky, with as much as a foot of snow whipped by 50 mph wind gusts. 

More than 3,000 flights were delayed because of the storm and nearly 900 canceled, mostly in Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Chicago and New York, according to the airline tracking website FlightStats.com.

In Pinckneyville, about 60 miles southeast of St. Louis, Rich Emling wasn't catching much of a break. Emling and other workers at his eight-truck towing business had been scrambling to muscle vehicles out of ditches and other tough spots since well before daybreak Wednesday as the region's first significant snowstorm of the season left its mark.

Emling, 43, wasn't expecting any relief later in the day, when he suspected slushy roads to freeze.

“I'm not going to say we're overly swamped, but we're certainly steady,” he said while hauling away a minivan that had slid off a road and hit a culvert. Even before dropping off that vehicle, Emling had another motorist in distress waiting for his help.

“When I was a kid, we had snowstorms all the time, but it seems like we get just two or three nowadays,” Emling said.

In Vincennes, Ind., a National Guard unit has been put on standby after the area received about 9 inches of wet, heavy snow. But Knox County emergency management spokeswoman Kellie Streeter said no major emergencies have been reported in the Vincennes area as of late Wednesday morning.

South of Vincennes, Gibson County Sheriff George Ballard said Interstate 64 and U.S. 31 in southwest Indiana were down to one lane. Ballard said the area has 6 to 8 inches of snow with ice underneath.

Authorities say traffic is light because most people have decided to stay home.

The sweeping storm system also unleashed rare winter tornadoes around the Deep South as it moved toward the Northeast.

The storm system has been blamed for six deaths and several injuries, though no one was killed in the tornadoes. The storms also left more than 100,000 without power for a time across the South, darkening Christmas celebrations.

Severe thunderstorms were forecast for the Carolinas while a line of blizzard and winter storm warnings stretched from Arkansas up the Ohio River to New York and on to Maine.

Thirty-four tornadoes were reported in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama during the outbreak Tuesday, the National Weather Service said.

In Chicago, snow flurries are in the forecast every day this week with highs in the 30s. The last time the high has been below freezing here was on Feb. 25, with a high of 27. The latest Chicago has gone without recording a subfreezing high was Jan. 1, 1924 during the winter of 1923-24.

With today's high already at 33 degrees, the city is within 6 days of the record.

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