Christmas Eve storms predicted for Midwest, West

CHICAGO (AP) - Many stranded, irate travelers tried to take advantage of a lull between snowstorms to get home by jet, car or train before another wallop of winter's wrath smacks the West and Midwest on Christmas Eve.

Weather service forecasters said more snow was likely Wednesday in the Midwest and Great Lakes, with up to 4 inches possible in Chicago. The Northwest was to battle its own snow and sleet storms, with 8 inches of snowfall expected in Spokane.

"We're seeing quite a bit of messiness out there," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Shimon, who's been at work at the agency's Lincoln, Ill., office for six straight days, a period when the state has seen snow, ice and subzero temperatures that were accompanied by wind chills of 20 below and more. "It's something different every day - never a dull moment."

At Chicago's airports, steady snow and wind caused problems Tuesday. More than 500 flights were canceled at O'Hare International Airport.

Travelers relying on train service also ran into weather-related delays caused by Amtrak's snow-packed track switches and other cold-related problems across the country. Around 600 passengers in Chicago waited for up to 22 hours before finally boarding their delayed trains - the Lake Shore Limited, which was bound for New York, and the Seattle- and Portland, Ore.-bound Empire Builder.

"It's spoiled our Christmas, sure," 73-year-old Don Seifert said after he and his wife abandoned hope of spending the holidays in New York with their son and his family.

But crowds of stranded travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were drastically reduced, some Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses in the Pacific Northwest were running and motorists in the region found easier going Tuesday.

Greyhound officials opened service on Interstate 5 from Portland to Seattle and from Seattle to Spokane but not east of there. Portland to Boise service remained suspended. Amtrak said it is moving passengers from Eugene to Portland by bus, from Portland to Seattle by train, and from Seattle to Vancouver, British Columbia, by bus. The reprieve was to be short-lived.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for much of Washington state, with as much as 3 inches of snow forecast in Seattle by early Wednesday, to be followed by slightly warmer temperatures and rain across western Washington later on Christmas Eve.

Many surface streets remained snowpacked, icy, and rutted with treacherous gray slush across the Pacific Northwest from weekend storms that brought 8 to 12 inches of snow to Seattle and nearby cities. Many roads across northern and central Indiana remained icy or snow-covered Wednesday morning as temperatures slowly rose above freezing.

Indiana State Police reopened a 30-mile stretch of Interstate 69 northeast of Indianapolis after closing it for about four hours due to icy conditions. At least 12 people died in car crashes on rain and ice-slickened roads Tuesday - two in Missouri, two in Kansas, one in Oklahoma, four in Kentucky, one in Ohio and two in Indiana.

In Oregon, the Portland metro region, the Columbia Gorge and the northern Willamette Valley dug out and awaited more stormy weather on Christmas Eve. The National Weather Service warned residents of northern Indiana about a significant flooding threat this weekend because of expected heavy rains later in the week and a rapid snow melt.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)