President Bush declared flood-stricken central Indiana a disaster area Saturday, but the soggy area was pretty much spared the snow and ice brought to the Midwest by a wintry storm threatening travel by land and air.
Rain moistened a parched part of the West, and snow fell in the Plains and Rocky Mountains.Bush signed a disaster declaration triggering release of federal aid for residents and businesses suffering particularly serious damage from a week of storm-fed floods in six Indiana counties, White House spokesman Bill Harlow said.
But precipitation was very light in central Indiana mid-Saturday, with freezing drizzle reported in Indianapolis, the National Weather Service said.
Rivers were receding in most of the swamped areas of Illinois and Indiana, but parts of the Ohio, Mississippi and Wabash rivers remained over their banks and residents of Gibson County, Indiana, were told to consider evacuating because of rising waters in the Wabash, expected to be 3 miles wide in southern Indiana.
The Wabash, which runs between Indiana and Illinois, was not expected to crest in places until Wednesday, and was rushing along at more than 10 feet above flood stage in several towns.
The flooded Ohio River, which was lapping at the service door of Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, the site of a professional football playoff game scheduled for Sunday, was receding as was the swollen Mississippi River.
The weather service said a fresh storm moved into Illinois early Saturday, and that by 6 a.m. 5 inches of snow had fallen in the Moline area.
The snow in northern Illinois and freezing rain in the southern half of the state made travel treacherous and gave residents good reason to stay home for the weekend.
Chicago aviation spokeswoman Lisa Howard said O'Hare International Airport had received 2 inches of snow by midday. Runways were open, but air travelers were told to expect delays of from 45 minutes to 90 minutes.
"It's still snowing pretty heavily out here (O'Hare)," Howard said. "At Midway Airport we only have one runway open."
All 230 Chicago road-clearing trucks were dispatched shortly after 2 a.m., but early morning highway and tollway conditions deteriorated because crews could not keep up with the snow.
Officials reported many accidents but no serious injuries and no roads were closed.
Before hitting Illinois the wintry storm dumped ice and snow on the Plains.
About 3 inches of snow was recorded in Omaha, and 2 inches fell in Iowa, while freezing rain covered roads in Missouri with a sheet of ice.
A second storm pounded the southwest mountains of Colorado and was expected to dump up to 8 inches of snow, while snow fell through the night in the northern and central mountains.
Scattered showers fell across Southern California for the second straight day, easing drought conditions that have persisted for four years.