Deadly winter storm upends travel in Midwest, Northeast power

A deadly coast-to-coast winter storm that brought blizzard conditions to the Upper Midwest and significant icing across the Great Lakes region began winding down Thursday after knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of utility customers and snarling traffic and air travel across the region.

Outside of Milwaukee, a heavy wet snow was being blamed by firefighters as possibly contributing to a partial collapse of a retail center’s parking garage. No one was reported to be injured in the multi-story collapse, but several vehicles were crushed by floors as they gave way. Community leaders said they dodged a bullet because no one was injured during the incident.

A combination of 3-4″ of sleet and snow was observed in the Glendale, Wisconsin, but the local National Weather Service office did not receive any other reports of structures collapsing due to the weight of the frozen precipitation.

Power outages from the Plains to the Northeast topped more than 1 million customers Thursday, as the combination of ice and wind proved to be challenging for trees and power lines.

An ice storm caused a road in Kalamazoo, Michigan to close on Feb. 23, 2023.

Utility companies in the hard-hit states said outages could last for an extended period due to difficulties in reaching areas with ice and heavy snow. 

At least one death is being attributed to the storm in Michigan. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Lt. Ethan M. Quillen, a volunteer with the Paw Paw Fire Department, responded to reports of trees and wires down due to the ongoing ice storm on Wednesday evening. While there, a portion of a tree broke near the area where he and other first responders were working and fell onto power lines. That caused the power line to collapse and hit Quillen. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Vehicles drive on a snow-covered road in downtown Minneapolis on February 21, 2023.
Jenett Johnson of Oak Park, Minnesota points to a fallen tree branch on Thursday.

Since Wednesday, more than 2,000 flights were canceled with Minneapolis, Denver, Detroit and Chicago at the top of the big board for travel impacts.

Officials at the Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport said hundreds of flights had been canceled there alone and operations crews worked around the clock to keep runways and taxiways clear.

Major airlines, such as Delta and United, offered travel waivers for anyone wishing to reschedule flights.

Vehicles drive on a snow-covered road in downtown Minneapolis on February 21, 2023.
Vehicles drive on a snow-covered road in downtown Minneapolis on February 21, 2023.

Impacts linger for Northeast, New England

The storm system is slowly exiting the U.S. but occasional rounds of light snow and even freezing rain will be possible into early Friday for New England and northern New York.

Winter Weather Advisories remain in effect through the morning across portions of northwestern New York, including Watertown, Rochester and Buffalo.

Winter Weather Advisories are also in effect for portions of northeastern Connecticut, most of central and eastern Massachusetts, including Boston, and northern Rhode Island, including Providence.

The heaviest snow from what has yet to fall is expected to impact northern New England. Northern areas of Vermont, New Hampshire and most of Maine can expect to see a few more inches of snow.

Ice can also be an issue for communities in higher elevations, such as The Berkshires in Massachusetts. Drivers there are being urged to take it slow on the roads as conditions could become treacherous.