Icy conditions as cold snap hits US

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A satellite image shows a huge area of the US affected by a winter storm (AP/NOAA)

A massive winter storm has roared into America’s heartland, carrying a paralysing punch of dangerous ice and snow that shut down airports, schools, colleges and government offices.

Ice-covered streets were deserted in Super Bowl host city Dallas, white-outs shut down Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and more is on the way.

Chicago expects 2ft of snow, Indianapolis an inch of ice, and the north east more ice and snow in what is shaping up to be a record winter for the region.

The worst storm in decades stretched more than 2,000 miles from Texas to Maine, across a third of the country, with nearly 6,000 flights cancelled.

Winds topped 60mph in Texas, while in Chicago public schools called a snow day for the first time in 12 years and both major airports gave up on flying until at least Wednesday afternoon.

Thousands of office workers in Chicago’s famous downtown Loop district left early to avoid transport troubles and officials closed the city’s busy and iconic Lake Shore Drive while crews tried to plough snow.

Everyone “should brace for a storm that will be remembered for a long time”, said Jose Santiago, executive director of Chicago’s office of emergency management.

Many cities across middle America began shutting down hours ahead of the snow, with scores of schools, colleges and government offices cancelling activities or deciding not to open at all.

Meteorologist Jeff Johnson, of the National Weather Service in Des Moines, Iowa, said the storm was sure to “cripple transportation for a couple of days”.

“You don’t want to get caught out in the rural areas in your vehicle in this storm. It’s a good night to stay home,” he said.

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