The Midwest has officially been hit by its first big winter storm of the year, spurring blizzard warnings in seven of the region's states. School has been canceled throughout Nebraska and Iowa, where drivers have been instructed to, well, not drive, reports the AP. Up to a foot of snow has already fallen in Des Moines, and "thundersnow" may strike the Milwaukee area, reports to USA Today. The heaviest snow is expected across a swath extending from northwest Missouri into Milwaukee, Chicago, and Michigan. "It's a pretty nasty storm," one meteorologist tells Reuters.
"We've had snow before," pooh-poohed one general store manager in Iowa. "Iowans know what to expect. We're used to it." But with the Christmas travel season getting under way, flight delays and cancellations could compound the headache. Chicago, home to the country's second-busiest airport, is gearing up for major disruptions. Already Delta and United are allowing travelers to change their flights without incurring fees. Interesting side note: Before this storm, Chicago hadn't seen snow in 290 days, reports the Tribune, and a number of Midwestern cities had broken records for the number of consecutive days without measurable snow. (Read more snowstorm stories.)