Midwest braces for snow; N.C. hit by storm

Jan. 12, 2012 at 8:12 AM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 12 (UPI) -- States in the U.S. midsection braced for blizzard-like conditions Thursday as North Carolina officials assessed damage from powerful storms, possibly tornadoes.

Strong storms, with reports of funnel clouds touching down, blew through the foothills northwest of Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, causing numerous injuries, power outages and property damage, The Charlotte Observer reported.

Officials in two counties said they received no reports of fatalities from the storms.

In the Great Lakes area, a powerful storm system was forecast to spread windswept snow eastward Thursday, making travel conditions treacherous along its path, AccuWeather.com reported.

Although lasting only a few hours, the storm could create blizzard-like conditions because of the blowing snow, low visibilities and plunging temperatures across much of the lower Midwest and Ohio Valley, forecasters said.

A more prolonged snow was expected near the Great Lakes, where up to a foot of snow is possible in Green Bay, Wis., and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Forecasters said Chicago could see 3-6 inches of snow.

Cities that could get 1-3 inches of fluffy snow include Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. Similar amounts were forecast in the Appalachians and across the interior Northeast for Thursday night as the front pushes through, AccuWeather.com said.

The bitterly cold air was forecast to remain into the weekend.

Residents in the town of Connelly Springs, N.C., reported seeing a funnel cloud when the storm moved through and National Weather Service experts will assess the storm's aftermath to determine whether it was a tornado, WCCB-TV, Charlotte, reported.

Residents elsewhere in the storm's path also reported seeing funnel clouds, officials said.

Rutherford County officials said at least 10 people were injured while Burke County authorities reported "numerous" injuries and the destruction of at least two dozen mobile homes. Damage also was reported in Caldwell County, but it was unclear if a tornado or thunderstorm winds was responsible, the Observer said.

Officials in the counties affected by the storm reported downed power lines, wind-tossed boats and marine equipment and damage to homes and vehicles.

Lisa Propst of Burke County Emergency Services the eastern and southeast parts of her county "have received devastating effects from tornado-like conditions."

"Several homes have sustained heavy damage, and power lines and utility poles are downed throughout the area," she said.

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