The Republic, Joe Harpring / AP
Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 | 2:52 p.m.
DETROIT — The first widespread snowstorm of the season weakened as it moved east Friday, but not before it dumped more than 1 ½ feet of snow in Michigan and made travel difficult in the Great Lakes region.
A semitrailer went out of control on a bridge slick with snow, barreled down an embankment and struck a concrete barrier in Indiana, killing the driver. In Michigan, a school bus carrying six children crashed into a tree that had fallen across a road in near white-out conditions. There were no injuries in that accident.
The storm, part of a system that began in the Rockies earlier in the week, was blamed for deaths in at least five states. Snow was forecast Friday in Pennsylvania, and the system was developing a second front with a mix of snow and rain in the New York City area and New Jersey. It was expected to "spin its way northward through New England and into Canada" into the weekend, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Adam said.
In Gaylord, Mich., where Adam is based, people were digging out of what he called "concrete snow" — precipitation that was heavy, wet and hard to handle. Adam said he had to snow-blow for the second time in 12 hours and take a chain saw to a downed tree on his street before he could get out for work Friday morning. The area recorded 19.6 inches of snow.
"It's a big wallop of winter weather," Adam said.
Aviation officials and travelers welcomed sunny skies in Chicago, where more than 500 flights were cancelled at the two airports the day before. Only 50 flights were canceled Friday, and a similar number faced delays of up to two hours.
Robin Mamlet, of Berwyn, Pa., spent Friday morning at Philadelphia International Airport waiting for her daughter to arrive home for the holidays from college in Chicago. Her daughter's original flight was canceled Thursday due to the blizzard and her rebooked flight at 6 a.m. left an hour late.
Still, the plane landed in Philadelphia in plenty of time for the next step in their holiday plans: a midday flight to Puerto Rico for a five-day vacation.
"So we're in very good shape — very lucky," Mamlet said.
Others didn't fare as well. Haverford College freshman Iliana Navarro, 19, was trying to get from Philadelphia to her family in Anaheim, Calif., but her Friday afternoon flight to John Wayne Airport was canceled because it was also scheduled to stop in still-congested Chicago.
Navarro said the next flight she could get on was Sunday, and she had no place to stay since her college campus had closed for the holidays.
"I don't know what they're expecting me to do," Navarro said. "Am I supposed to camp out in the airport?"
Utility crews worked to restore power in a half-dozen states, but thousands remained without service after heavy snow and strong winds pulled down lines. Some schools canceled classes for a second day.
Charlene DeWitt said Friday afternoon that the lights were flickering at her home in Michigan's eastern Upper Peninsula, during high winds that followed about 18 inches of snow. She and her husband, Marv, a retired state park ranger, had stocked up on provisions the day before and planned to stay indoors.
"We haven't had this much snow in quite a while," said DeWitt, a retired teacher in the area that historically receives generous helpings of snow during long winters. "It's very slippery, wet snow. Not the nice, fluffy kind. But it's very Christmassy and very beautiful."
Associated Press writers Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia and Margery Beck in Omaha, Neb. contributed to this report.