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By Phil Helsel
A passenger jet slid off a runway at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on Saturday as that city and a swath of the Midwest was being battered by heavy snow, officials said.
There were no injuries after the United Airlines jet, which had a reported around 129 passengers people on board coming from Phoenix, exited the runway Saturday morning, according to authorities and NBC Chicago, which cited the city’s fire department.
United Airlines said Flight 656 rolled off the concrete surface “due to the weather conditions.” The passengers deplaned safely and crews were working to recover the aircraft, the Chicago Department of Aviation said.
More than 650 flights have been canceled at the Chicago airport due to overnight snow and winds, the airport said on Twitter. The National Weather Service said that 5 inches of snow had fallen in Chicago as of 9:12 a.m. ET, and 11 inches was reported in the Kenosha, Wisconsin, area.
A swath of the United States from Illinois to Maine was under a winter storm warning, according to the National Weather Service. The weather service says that there is a 70 percent probability of a foot of snow in parts of northern Pennsylvania and central New York.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state thruway system was banning tractor trailers and buses, with the exception of Interstate 95 in Westchester and Bronx counties, at 3 p.m. Saturday through the duration of the storm, to help snow plows keep roads clear and ensure access for first responders. “I am also urging drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“We have been through worse before, and we will get through this,” Cuomo said Saturday in Utica. “It will be a rough couple of days. … The wind chill, when you’re talking about minus 5, minus 10, minus 15-degree wind chill — that is serious.”
The National Weather Service said that cities including Utica could see heavy snow of 12 to 20 inches, with the heaviest snow expected Saturday night into early Sunday. A winter storm warning was in effect until 4 p.m. Sunday. “Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” the weather service said.
New York City was battered by a snowstorm in November that snarled transportation in the city, and the government’s response and preparations were criticized. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that precautions are being taken.
“We don’t know exactly what we’re going to be dealing with here, but we do know it’s a real storm,” with cold temperatures and the potential for icing, the mayor said, adding that officials are assuming “the worst, not the best.” He called the storm “an ever changing situation,” and encouraged residents to keep informed.
Snow and sleet accumulation forecasts call for 4 inches for New York City under the highest precipitation models, if the storm tracks farther south than predicted. The lower-end amounts, which is called a 90 percent probability, predicts snow and sleet beginning in Middletown and Poughkeepsie and extending north, according to the weather service.
Newark Liberty International Airport said that as of 5 p.m. it had 83 flight cancellations, and LaGuardia airport said it had 57 cancellations. JFK airport said it had a total of 162 cancellations.
A public information officer for Indiana State Police on Saturday tweeted that the safest place for drivers during the next 24 hours is at home.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered a state of emergency that took effect at noon Saturday. The weather service warned of an increasing threat of “significant ice accumulation” along and north of Interstate 78, which runs through the center of the state towards Newark and New York City.
Boston could see between 4 and 6 inches of snow, and some parts of northwest Massachusetts could get between 8 to 12 inches, according to the weather service. Hartford, Connecticut, could get between 4 to 6 inches. Portland, Maine, could see between 12 and 18 inches of snow.
The snow didn’t stop some Midwesterners from enjoying the outdoors. Celeste Tremmel, 56, was out training for a marathon in Detroit on Saturday amid several inches of snow.
“When you run a marathon, you run no matter the weather,” she told the Associated Press. She said that running in snow is “like running in sand, so you have to go a lot slower.”
Kansas’ governor also declared a state of disaster emergency on Friday due to the storm.
On Saturday at around 6 a.m., an equipment operator with the state transportation department died in a rollover accident while conducting snow removal operations on a highway in Johnson County, south of Kansas City, according to the agency and NBC affiliate KSHB of Kansas City. The cause of the single-vehicle crash is still under investigation, and it is unclear if it was weather-related.
KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz called the worker experienced and dedicated. “I’ve extended my thoughts and prayers to the entire KDOT family this morning.” The worker was identified as Stephen Windler, 24.
CORRECTION (Jan. 19, 6:45 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misidentified the airline involved in an incident at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. It was a United Airlines flight, not American Airlines.