High winds and heavy snow turned much of the Midwest into a frosty mess on Friday. Roads and sidewalks across the region became treacherous, forcing some highways to close and grounding thousands of flights.
A mass of frigid Arctic air trailed behind the storm, biting at fingers, reddening cheeks and threatening a dangerously cold holiday weekend.
The storm affected nearly 30 million Americans, according to the National Weather Service, which said that more than a foot of snow could fall in parts of the Midwest by Saturday morning. Officials across the region delivered a drumbeat of similar messages: Avoid the storm. Keep warm. Stay home if you can.
In Franklin, Wis., a 69-year-old man died after snow blowing in his driveway on Thursday, according to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, which is investigating the fatality as a weather-related death.
“I’m from the Midwest and used to cold winters, but this snow and freezing temps are intense,” said Caleb Tracey, 26, who went for a walk in Lincoln, Neb., on Friday despite the heavy snowfall there. “I’m keeping today’s walk very short.”
In parts of the Midwest and Great Plains, temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees on Friday as cold air pushed south from Canada. Over the next several days, a large portion of the United States is forecast to experience the coldest conditions of winter so far.
Among those urged to take warning: football fans. The N.F.L. playoffs begin this weekend, and it will be dangerously cold on Saturday night when the Kansas City Chiefs, the defending Super Bowl champions, host the Miami Dolphins. Temperatures will be “well below zero” at kickoff, forecasters said, and ticket prices for the game were falling on Friday.
In Buffalo, where the Bills will also host a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team offered $20 an hour for fans willing to shovel snow out of the stadium overnight on Saturday before kickoff on Sunday afternoon.
In Chicago on Friday, planes at O’Hare International Airport were grounded for more than two hours. The weather had disrupted more than 6,500 flights across the country by late afternoon, including many in Dallas and Kansas City, according to the tracking site FlightAware.
Todd Wilkins, a technology developer, tried to fly to Milwaukee from Washington and was delayed for hours before the plane finally took off. Then the flight was rerouted to O’Hare, 70 miles to the south. His determination to get home to Fontana, Wis., forced him to take to the frigid roads for the final leg of the trip.
“I tried six car rental companies and finally got a pickup truck,” said Mr. Wilkins, 54. “It was the only thing available.”
In North Idaho, the authorities said one man was presumed dead after being caught in an avalanche near Stevens Peak, where two other people were rescued on Thursday. Forecasters have warned of high avalanche dangers among the region’s mountains because of the heavy snow and winds. The death comes after another person was killed this week in an avalanche at a Lake Tahoe ski resort.
Friday’s storm was the latest in a series of severe weather across the country since the new year, and more is on the way. Daily high temperatures will struggle to get above zero in many parts of the central United States through the holiday weekend, and overnight lows will be even more frigid.
The weather is also causing headaches for Republican presidential candidates in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses on Monday, with campaigns forced to cancel some events. Most schools and many roads in Iowa were closed on Friday.
As snow fell in Illinois, officials there criticized Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas for continuing to send busloads of migrants from the U.S. southern border to Chicago. The city temporarily lifted a rule limiting shelter stays to 60 days so that no one would be pushed out into the cold, and volunteers combed the streets on the city’s West Side to check on people who were already without shelter.
One volunteer, Luz Chavez, brought tarpaulins and propane for portable heaters to people who were staying in tents. “It’s just rough out there,” she said. “Folks are hungry and cold, which is the worst.”
Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Robert Chiarito, Lola Fadulu and Lauryn Higgins.