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Bitter cold, destruction in wake of mammoth storm

Hundreds of people were forced to abandon their cars Wednesday on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, but by Thursday, traffic was flowing freely.

Hundreds of people were forced to abandon their cars Wednesday on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, but by Thursday, traffic was flowing freely. Photo by The Associated Press.

CHICAGO (AP) — A mammoth winter storm left dangerously slick roads and frigid Midwestern temperatures in its frozen footprint Thursday, a day after crushing snow-laden buildings in the Northeast.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley spoke publicly for the first time to defend his city’s handling of the storm, which stranded hundreds of motorists in whiteout conditions on the famous Lake Shore Drive. In a city known for punishing politicians for winter weakness, the retiring Daley said when pressed that he wouldn’t have handled anything differently and that workers responded well.

“Yes, they did ... They did a very, very good job,” Daley said. Lake Shore reopened before dawn Thursday.

The sprawling system unloaded as much as 2 feet of snow across its 2,000-mile path, crippling airports and stranding drivers from Texas to South Dakota, where authorities rescued some motorists from more than 150 vehicles that had become trapped overnight after high winds sent fallen snow drifting onto an interstate in the northeast part of the state. Icy roads were blamed for a 15-vehicle chain-reaction crash in southeastern Louisiana that resulted in a few minor injuries.

In the Northeast, officials had warned homeowners and businesses for days of the dangers of leaving snow piled up on rooftops. As the storm cloaked the region in ice and added inches to the piles of snow already spread across the landscape, the predictions came true. No one was seriously injured, however.

In Middletown, Conn., the entire third floor of a building failed, littering the street with bricks and snapping two trees. A gas station canopy on New York’s Long Island collapsed, as did an airplane hangar near Boston, damaging aircraft. Roof cave-ins also were reported in Rhode Island.

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