By Kevin Murphy
KANSAS CITY (Reuters) - A major winter storm swept into the northern Plains on Sunday, threatening to bury Chicago under more than a foot of snow before tracking toward New England, a region still reeling from a powerful blizzard that struck only days earlier.
The fresh snowfall and strong winds could complicate the plans of millions of Americans in the Midwest planning to travel to Super Bowl parties on Sunday. In Chicago's two major airports, about 1,400 flights were scratched.
“We are right now ramping up into blizzard conditions,” said David Beachler, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Chicago. “The winds will steadily increase, possibly with 45 mph gusts. Travel is I am sure is hazardous. It was rough for us to get to our shifts today.”
The path of the storm extends from eastern Nebraska and South Dakota to the Great Lakes states and into the northern reaches of New England, according to the National Weather Service. It forecasts up to 18 inches of snow in the Chicago area.
Winter storm warnings were posted for those regions through Monday. The northern and southern areas of the Midwest mostly escaped with light snow.
The snow prompted Cathy McDonagh, bar manager at Curragh Traditional Irish Pub in northwest Chicago, to take public transportation to work for the first time on Sunday.
"I usually drive," she said. "But I might take the train and the bus more often, because it all went very smoothly."
The pub was open for Super Bowl watching, but the snow could put a damper on things, she said.
"Most people will have a house party, and judging from the weather we won't get much of a crowd," she added.
A half-foot of snow was forecast for Cleveland, Ohio, and even more could pile up in New York City and the Boston area, it said. Winds of up to 40 mph could make driving even more tricky.
On the bright side, Monday is Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where three to five inches is expected to accumulate into the morning. Such conditions mean the town's ceremonial groundhog is unlikely to see his own shadow, a sure sign of an early spring, according to local legend.
Across the country, the storm was a factor in about 1,700 flight cancellations and 1,110 delays, largely in Chicago, according to the online site FlightStats.
Eight inches of snow in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, did not faze Jason Story, 36, who had plans to watch the big game at home with his family.
"We’re going to stay nice and cozy warm in the house and watch the game,” he said.
In Iowa, the storm forced the cancellation hundreds of church services as 3 to 10 inches of snow was falling across the state.
Slippery and snowy roads were reported in numerous states and the Ohio Turnpike banned travel on Sunday for certain vehicles with trailers or high profiles due to the snow and wind.
The storm comes only a few days after a blizzard pummeled parts of the East Coast, especially New England states that got up to three feet of snow. The brunt of that storm spared New York City and vicinity, where about a foot of snow accumulated in some areas.
(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City. Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Kay Henderson in Des Moines and Todd Epp in Sioux Falls, S.D. Editing by Andre Grenon)