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Colo. kids stranded at school overnight by snow

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

DENVER – A snowstorm moving across the Midwest forced about 60 students to spend the night at their Colorado school when a state highway was closed due to dangerous conditions that left some drivers stranded in their cars, as winter weather continued to cause problems for a wide swath of the country.

Tens of thousands remained without power in Michigan, while adverse conditions continued to disrupt flights at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. In eastern Wisconsin, hundreds of vehicles were stranded or ended up in crashes as a winter storm made travel dangerous. And in Kansas, the latest snowstorm to hit the state was being blamed for six deaths.

According to the air traffic tracking website FlightAware.com, about 100 flights in and out of Chicago's airports have been canceled for Wednesday. Flights into O'Hare International Airport are being delayed an average of about an hour.

On the plains in the eastern half of Colorado, wind and snow created whiteout conditions Tuesday afternoon just as buses began taking students home from the Miami-Yoder school district school about 40 miles east of Colorado Springs. The buses turned back to the school and about 60 students, ranging from preschoolers to 12th graders, watched movies, played basketball, ate concession-stand pizza and talked to their parents before bedtime.

The older kids slept on wrestling and gym mats covered with coats, while the younger ones curled up on preschool napping mats, Principal Sharon Webb said.

The school is a large version of a one-room schoolhouse. The students all know each other, and many are related, which Webb said gave it the feel of a sleepover. She said parents were understanding.

"When you live out here in this wide-open country, you know they're where it's the safest," she said of the school.

Daylight showed how powerful the wind had been. Outside, there were drifts up to 4 feet high, but the grass was still visible on the football field.

The blowing snow also temporarily closed a 150-mile stretch of Interstate 70 from just outside Denver to the Kansas line, along with other smaller highways in eastern Colorado, including the one leading to the school. Deputies in surrounding El Paso County responded to about 40 calls for help from stranded drivers or reports of vehicles off the road that might still have people inside. No injuries were reported.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Wednesday the latest winter storm to hit his state caused six deaths.

The governor said two people died in traffic crashes, two siblings died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Kansas City, Kan., a woman died in southwest Kansas while shoveling snow, and another Kansas City resident was killed while walking in the snow.

The storms that crossed Kansas last Thursday and again this week dropped more than 2 feet of snow in some places and knocked out power to thousands of customers, mostly in eastern counties.

In Michigan, utilities said Wednesday roughly 50,600 homes and businesses lost electrical service after a storm that hit the state starting Tuesday knocked down power lines and tree branches.

Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. said about 40,000 of its customers were without power in the morning, and that Washtenaw County was the hardest hit.

Consumers Energy reported about 10,600 of its customers were without power in Wednesday afternoon. The subsidiary of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. said those outages include about 2,624 customers in Jackson County and 2,086 in Calhoun County.

The utilities said crews would work around the clock to restore power.

The National Weather Service said 9 inches of snow were reported in Muskegon, Mich., as of Wednesday morning. Authorities said weather might be a factor in crashes that killed motorists in Sanilac and Monroe counties.

In Wisconsin, there were more than 340 stranded vehicles and crashes in Milwaukee, Kenosha, Ozaukee and Washington counties after heavy snowfall that started Tuesday and continued into Wednesday.

The storm dumped 14 inches in Sheboygan County, where sheriff's Lt. Mark Rupnik said they've had at least 100 calls for stranded vehicles, vehicles in ditches or accidents. He said the main highways were drivable as of Wednesday afternoon but expected the secondary roads to be a problem for the next day.

Several area school districts canceled classes Wednesday, and there were power outages in the Milwaukee area.

Elsewhere, authorities said no one was injured after a train collided with a car that was stuck in snow on railroad tracks in Woodward, Okla., where at least 15 inches of snow fell.

The car's driver tried to drive over the train tracks Wednesday morning but became trapped on the snow-covered road, Oklahoma City television station KWTV reported.

Authorities say the driver was able to exit the car safely but couldn't push the vehicle from the tracks before the train smashed into it. The car was totaled in the collision.

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