By Doyle Rice and John Bacon, USA TODAY
The second winter storm in a week, this one featuring heavy, wet snow and driving winds, pounded parts of the Midwest on Tuesday, closing schools, snarling transportation and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes and businesses.
The storm was ripping through Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma early Tuesday, with 8 inches of snow on the ground in some places and more on the way. More than 80,000 homes and businesses were without power.
Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James declared an emergency, his city still recovering from the storm that dumped nearly a foot of snow just five days earlier. He urged residents to stay home.
"This one has the potential to be quite serious," James said.
Airlines have canceled more than 1,900 flights during the past 72 hours and were waiving fees for passengers scrambling to make connections through the storm's path. FlightStats reported 345 cancellations at Chicago O'Hare and 117 at Kansas City alone on Tuesday morning.
Chicago and Detroit were among other major cities bracing for a hit. Both were forecast to see up to six inches of an unpleasant mixture of snow and ice.
Metro Detroit's snowfall total for this winter is already 4.5 inches above normal, said National Weather Service meteorogist Mike Richter. Richter said the area already has recorded 37.4 inches of snow this winter, less than two inches off the average for an entire winter.
At Lozon Ace Hardware in suburban River Rouge, office manager Amy Lozon said there hasn't been a big rush on snow supplies. "People pretty much have what they need for this winter. March is just around the corner, there is light at the end of the tunnel," she said.
The storm already was being blamed for two deaths -- in northwest Kansas, a 21-year-old man's SUV hit an icy patch on Interstate 70 and overturned. And in the northwest town of Woodward, Okla., heavy snow caused a roof to collapse, killing one person inside the home.
The storm will continue to dump snow across the Lower Great Lakes region Tuesday night and into northern New York State and northern New England on Wednesday, Oravec said.
The storm forced road closures in Texas on Monday. Paul Braun, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said whiteout conditions and drifting snow had made all roads in the Texas Panhandle impassable. Interstate 40 was closed from Amarillo to the Oklahoma state line Monday.
Amarillo saw about 20 inches of snow Monday. Along with the snow, a weather station in Pantex, Texas, reported a wind gust Monday morning of 77 mph. A wind gust of 84 mph was reported near El Paso, well south of the snowstorm.
In the drought-stricken Plains, thirsting for moisture, the storm could help replenish the groundwater.
Climatologists say 12 inches of snow is equivalent to about 1 inch of rain, depending on the density of the snow.
"Is it a drought buster? Absolutely not," Victor Murphy with the weather service in Fort Worth said.
"Will it bring short-term improvement? Yes."
Contributing: Ben Mutzabaugh; Christina Hall and Megha Satyanarayana, Detroit Free Press; Associated Press