CHICAGO - Rain and rapidly rising temperatures accompanied by thick fog threatened to cause flooding yesterday in the Midwest after days of Arctic cold, heavy snow and ice.
Thick ice on roads that contributed to dozens of deaths had thawed and mountains of snow turned into pools and streams of water.
"It's a catch-22," said Marisa Kollias, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation. "We're getting rid of one problem, the ice, but we're getting another problem, with the flooding."
The National Weather Service posted flood watches and warnings yesterday for parts of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri. As much as 2 inches of rain fell in two hours during the night in west-central Illinois, the National Weather Service reported yesterday.
And as warm air collided with cold, the weather service posted tornado watches for parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Kansas. High winds left 42,000 people in western Missouri without electricity; power had been restored to most by yesterday evening.
After subzero temperatures in places earlier in the week, readings yesterday morning were in the 40s as far north as Cheboygan, Mich., at the top of the state's Lower Peninsula, the weather service said. However, up to 7 inches of snow is possible in the state today, the agency said.
The weather service said the Chariton River was overflowing and causing minor flooding in Chariton, Iowa. Flood stage is 15 feet; the river was at 16.6 feet at 3 a.m. yesterday and expected to rise. It said road flooding was reported in parts of Missouri.
By late yesterday, the rain had stopped and an ice storm swept across much of Iowa. Interstate 80 near Grinnell was temporarily closed because of traffic accidents.
Around Chicago, Cook County authorities offered sandbags to communities that needed to fortify low-lying areas, county spokesman Sean Howard said.
Hundreds of people spent the night at Chicago's Midway Airport, where all 82 flights Friday evening were canceled as the thick fog rolled in. There were also more than 400 flight cancellations at O'Hare International Airport, the nation's second busiest.
Operations returned to near normal yesterday at Midway, although 36 flights were canceled because aircraft were out of position following Friday's weather problems. More than 100 flights were called off yesterday at O'Hare.
Temperatures also were rising in the Pacific Northwest, which has been pummeled by deep snow.
In Portland, Ore., a couple inches of rain through yesterday was expected to wash away much of the 19 inches of snow that by one measurement had made December the city's snowiest month since January 1950.
Slippery roads and cold were blamed for at least 44 deaths last week: 11 in Indiana; eight in Wisconsin; five each in Ohio and Michigan; four each in Kentucky and Missouri; two in Kansas; and one apiece in Illinois, Oklahoma, Iowa, Massachusetts and West Virginia.