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'Heart attack snow' falling on broad swath of US

A fierce, late-season storm has been pummeling the Midwest, making a snowy mess on sidewalks and highways and creating headaches for air travelers. NBC's John Yang reports.

A storm packing heavy, wet, travel-snarling snow threatened the Midwest on Tuesday with its hardest punch of the winter, as those along the east coast watched and waited for their turn to get socked.

Meteorologists predict Chicago may get a foot of snow by the time it’s all said and done, the most there since a blizzard in 2011. And flight delays continued well into Tuesday night and 1,180 flights were canceled into and out of O’Hare and Midway airports. Minneapolis-St. Paul experienced delays for much of the day, where more than 120 flights had been canceled, according to FlightAware.com.

The latest winter storm is slated to arrive in Boston on Wednesday and continue into Thursday, bringing beach erosion from Maryland to Cape Cod. The Weather Channel's Mike Seidel reports.

The city of Chicago and the Illinois Tollway, a tangle of highways around the city, on Tuesday deployed their full fleets of snowplows, 466 in all. Dozens of school systems closed for the day. Traffic inched along during the evening commute in downtown Chicago, but snow accumulations in the surrounding suburbs made travel more difficult.

More than 1,000 flights in Washington-area airports have already been cancelled for Wednesday in anticipation of the storm that is expected to bring anywhere from 5 to 8 inches.

The heaviest snow Tuesday occurred in a band stretching from Minnesota and Wisconsin down through the eastern nose of Iowa and across through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and the central Appalachian Mountains.

Full coverage from weather.com

More than 9 inches of snow fell in Minneapolis, with totals nearing the double digits in parts of Wisconsin and Iowa and up to a foot around Chicago and in northern Indiana.

In Wisconsin, which was pummeled by snow early Tuesday, teams of divers plumbed the frigid waters of the Red Cedar River, looking for the driver of a semi that plunged off Interstate 94 before dawn, NBC affiliate KARE in Minneapolis said.

The storm promised heavy, wet snow, sometimes called “heart attack snow” because it is the most work to shovel.

“It is taxing their bodies and their hearts,” Dr. David Marmor, a cardiologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill., told The Associated Press. “People are really testing their limits, and if they’re already at high risk, they are better off paying the kid across the street to do it.”

Chicago has reported about 20 inches of snow this winter and usually gets about 30, so the storm could erase the snow deficit for the season.

Jim Mone / AP

Workers remove snow from cars at an auto dealership Tuesday in Bloomington, Minn.

Workers remove snow from cars at an auto dealership Tuesday in Bloomington, Minn.

Predicting the storm’s path later this week is tricky, forecasters said. Some computer models had it heading straight east, while others forecast that it will curl to the northeast and sweep through New England.

Either way, the Washington metro area was expected to be hit hard and Congress has already taking precautions. A Democratic hearing on background checks for gun purchases, scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed because of the weather.  A House vote on the continuing resolution to keep the government funded was moved to the early afternoon on Wednesday with members then able to leave for the week.

Because the snow was expected to be heavy and wet, the Washington area prepared for power outages. Baltimore Gas and Electric asked for 500 utility workers from out of state to help and encouraged people to prepare emergency kits.

Rain was expected to change to snow Wednesday in Baltimore and Philadelphia and Wednesday night in New York, threatening the Thursday morning commute there. The Weather Channel said New York could get 4 to 6 inches of snow.

Meteorologists said the storm could pack fierce wind gusts as well — up to 60 mph, tropical storm strength, along the New Jersey shore.

How much snow New England gets depends on which track the storm takes. If it tracks to the east, the region could get 1 to 6 inches of snow. If it bends to the north, the totals could be closer to a foot.

The driver of a semi was killed when his truck plunged into Wisconsin's Red Cedar River. Rescue crews are searching for the missing passenger. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

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