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Ice storm encases Midwest, heads east for start of work week

by
A broken tree branch is seen on a snow covered residential street following a winter storm in Omaha, Nebraska, December 20, 2012. The first major winter storm of the year took aim at the U.S. Midwest on Thursday, triggering high wind and blizzard warnings across a widespread area, and a threat of tornadoes in Gulf Coast states to the south.
REUTERS/Stringer
A broken tree branch is seen on a snow covered residential street following a winter storm in Omaha, Nebraska, December 20, 2012. The first major winter storm of the year took aim at the U.S. Midwest on Thursday, triggering high wind and blizzard warnings across a widespread area, and a threat of tornadoes in Gulf Coast states to the south. REUTERS/Stringer

By Barbara Goldberg

(Reuters) - A storm encased the U.S. Midwest in glistening ice on Sunday, forcing officials to cancel flights and closing roadways and threatening to tangle the start of the work week as freezing rains headed east.

Hundreds of churches across Iowa called off Sunday services as sidewalks were turned to sheets of ice by the storm that meteorologists said had covered the Midwest in about a half-inch (13mm) of ice by midday.

Flights in and out of Chicago, Minneapolis and St. Louis were grounded on icy runways.

The National Weather Service issued a freezing rain advisory for Chicago and the surrounding area for Sunday until 9 p.m. CST (0300 GMT Monday), when temperatures were expected to warm up enough to make it just rain. Until then, the NWS warned of dangerous conditions for driving and even walking.

"Pockets of sleet, freezing rain and freezing drizzle are possible farther east late tonight into Monday morning from Buffalo, New York, to New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Roanoke, Virginia," meteorologist Brian Edwards said on Accuweather.com.

Slick roadways were reported from South Sioux City, Nebraska, to Iowa, where numerous crashes were reported, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. In Franklin County, Iowa, Interstate 35 was blocked by tractor trailers struggling to get a grip on treacherous surfaces.

"Instant icing of windshields and roadway surfaces (as well as driveways, sidewalks and parking lots) can be expected in the areas with freezing temperatures," the Iowa DOT said.

In Missouri, ramps to connecting Interstate 270, which circles the St. Louis area, to Interstate 70 were closed early Sunday morning because of ice, but were later reopened, said Marie Elliott, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

(Additional reporting by Tim Bross in Missouri, Kay Henderson in Iowa and David Hendee in Nebraska; Editing by Edith Honan and Bill Trott)

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