Colorado kids stranded at school overnight by snow

At least three deaths blamed on weather

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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 Oklahoma, a train collided with a car stuck in the snow in Woodward, where at least 15 inches of snow fell.

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 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.

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

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.

In Muskegon, Mich., 9 inches of snow were reported as of Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service said. Four to 7 inches fell in Washtenaw County, including Ann Arbor. Six inches fell in parts of Lenawee County.

Authorities said weather might be a factor in crashes that killed motorists in Sanilac and Monroe counties.

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.

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.