Winter storm slows travel in Plains states, heads east

CHICAGO (AP) — After leaving slick roads and runways in the Midwest, a winter storm inched its way toward New England, where it was forecast to dump up to 2 feet (0.61 meters) of snow.

The National Weather Service issued winter storm warnings for the weekend from the Dakotas, across the Great Lakes states and into New England. The weather service at one point warned that conditions in the Northeast "could approach blizzard criteria." Ice was also a possibility in some areas in the storm's path.

In Nebraska, where freezing drizzle was falling Friday afternoon, authorities closed Omaha's Eppley Airfield after a Southwest Airlines plane slid off an ice-slicked runway. No one was injured.

In Iowa, the Department of Transportation warned that visibility was less than a half mile in many locations due to snow and wind. And in South Dakota, where snow was starting to pile up, authorities warned drivers to give plows extra room.

The storm was expected to bring between up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow to the Midwest before walloping the Northeast on Sunday. The National Weather Service in Albany, New York, said snow could fall at a rate of 1 to 3 inches (2.5-7.5 centimeters) an hour, creating "difficult to impossible travel conditions" in areas.

In New York City, the worst of the storm is expected from Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon, with snow accumulations of 3-6 inches (7.5-15 centimeters), followed by rain that could turn to ice as temperatures drop later Sunday. Single-digit temperatures could last into Monday. Strong wind gusts beginning Sunday afternoon could bring down snow- or ice-burdened tree limbs and power lines.

Officials warn of flight disruptions at airports, as well as possible changes in train schedules. The Chicago Department of Aviation reported more than 300 flights at O'Hare and Midway international airports had been canceled as of Friday evening. Amtrak canceled some trains Saturday from Chicago to Washington and New York and between New York and Boston and Pennsylvania on Sunday.

Chicago is forecast to receive as much as 8 inches by Saturday and wind gusts in the Chicago area are expected to reach 35 mph (56 kph).

Bitterly cold air was expected in the storm's aftermath.

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Associated Press writers Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska, Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Verena Dobnik in New York City contributed to this report.