CHICAGO - People fired up snowblowers and dug out their shovels Saturday after the first significant snowstorm of the season dumped between a few inches and 20 inches of snow across the Upper Midwest, blanketing a swath from South Dakota to Michigan.
The storm created hazardous travel conditions and caused more than 400 flight cancellations. A blast of much colder air was following the storm.
The National Weather Service said the snow, which first fell in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa on Friday, would continue in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan before heading northeast into Canada late Saturday.
In the southern Wisconsin town of Janesville, between 10 and 20 inches of snow had fallen by late Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
Southside True Value Hardware manager Matt Krienke said business had been good in the days leading up to the storm, but that it had become "very, very, very, very slick.''
"People who don't need to drive don't need to be out,'' he said.
Snow totals in the northern suburbs of Chicago topped initial forecasts of 6 to 10 inches, said National Weather Service meteorologist Amy Seeley — 12.5 inches in Woodstock and 11.7 inches in Roscoe. It's unusual for the area's first snowfall of the season to dump more than 6 inches, Seeley said.
About 60 miles northwest of Chicago, the village of Capron had received 14.6 inches by Saturday morning, spurring village employee Robert Lukes into action clearing sidewalks with his snowblower in the community of about 1,400 people. He said the snowfall was wet, with a layer of slush underneath that made the work slow going.
"It's a typical first snow for us, but it's a pain in the butt. There's quite a bit of it and it's kind of difficult plowing and snowblowing,'' he said, adding, "It's just another snowstorm in northern Illinois.''
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had 7.1 inches of snow by noon Saturday, which forced the cancellation of about 310 flights in and out of the busy airport, according to the tracking website FlightAware.com. Midway International Airport had canceled about 110 flights.
The northern Indiana city of LaPorte is no stranger to heavy snowfalls, though only about 4 inches of snow was on the ground by noon Saturday. Alizha Demunck, a clerk at the city's Little Chocolates candy store, said the weather didn't slow weekend shoppers from getting handmade chocolates.
"Northern Indiana, we're used to snow. Most people aren't even fazed by it,'' she said.
Between 5 and 8 inches of snow had fallen on far northern Indiana and southern Michigan by Saturday afternoon, with accumulations growing smaller farther to the south, the weather service said. Indianapolis was expected to receive 1 to 3 inches of snow.
Temperatures plunged behind the front. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reached 11 degrees Saturday, and the town of Estherville in northern Iowa was even colder at 6 degrees with a wind chill of minus 4, the weather service said.
Southeastern South Dakota got up to 18 inches of snow on Friday, National Weather Service meteorologist Bruce Terry said, while amounts of a foot or more — 17 inches in one spot — were common in northern Iowa.
"Some of those amounts are pretty impressive for this time of year,'' he added.