Major winter storm bringing snow, ice, tornadoes to central U.S.

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Tens of millions of people are bracing for a major storm system poised to sweep through the central United States and beyond this week, according to weather forecasters.

Chicago, where a blizzard watch already has been issued, is expecting a snowstorm of historic proportions.

“This storm could be one of the top 10 biggest snowstorms ever in the city,” CNN meteorologist Sean Morris said. The same system is expected to coat large portions of the country’s midsection in a thick blanket of snow, he said.

According to the National Weather Service, snowstorms that drop over 15 inches of snow occur about once every 19 years in Chicago. The last time this happened was in January 1999, when 21.6 inches of snow was recorded in the city.

Officials have added 120 garbage trucks with specially attached snow plows to the city’s fleet normal of 274 trucks in expectation of heavy snowfall, said Jose A. Santiago, executive director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management.

Snowfall could reach a rate of two and three inches per hour, with northeasterly winds of 25 mph to 40 mph, creating dangerous “whiteout” conditions across the entire Chicago metropolitan area, the weather service reported.

In total, more than 20 states fall under winter storm advisories, watches or warnings, stretching from New Mexico in the southwest to Vermont in the northeast.

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