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Winter storm disrupts holiday travel

By Michael Tarm

Associated Press

CHICAGO — A winter storm hit the Great Lakes on Friday, blanketing the region with several inches of snow and disrupting holiday travel.

More than 450 flights were canceled at O’Hare International Airport by late afternoon, and delays averaged 90 minutes. Officials urged travelers to check the status of their flights.

Delays at Midway Airport averaged two hours, with about 20 cancellations.

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Both runways at Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport were closed due to snow for about an hour early Friday afternoon and then at least two hours in the evening, airport spokesman Ryan McAdams said.

Runways closed

Two of three runways were closed at Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, Wis., causing many delays and seven flight cancellations, airport spokeswoman Sharyn Wisniewski said. At Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Mich., snow caused some ground-radar equipment to shut down, forcing the closing of a runway to arriving planes for about two hours, said Tony Molinaro, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Planes were diverted or circled overhead while crews replaced the device, which tells aircraft whether they are properly lined up for landing.

Between 5 and 7 inches of snow was reported across the region. The Green Bay Packers asked for 300 people to help shovel snow at Lambeau Field on Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s game against Detroit.

Some were elated by the winter wonderland.

"We love it. Business is wonderful today," said Sara Voegeli, ski manager at the Villa Olivia Country Club and Ski Area in suburban Chicago.

During Christmas, the facility was relying on machine-made white stuff. But nearly 300 skiers, snowboarders and sledders using inner tubes had turned out by Friday afternoon, drawn by the new, powdery snow, Voegeli said.

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Rain in southeast welcome

In the Southeast, forecasters said additional rain was likely this weekend in the Atlanta metro area, and may determine whether 2007 is the driest year on record for the region.

As of Friday morning, the area had just under 30 inches of rain for the year. The record was set in 1954, when the area had less than 32 inches of rain, according to the weather service.

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