Snow, ice, high winds, tornadoes strike Midwest

Feb. 21, 2014 at 2:04 PM
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MINNEAPOLIS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A storm system that brought heavy, moist snow to parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin and disrupted power for thousands has been blamed for at least one death.

Blizzard warnings were posted across the upper Midwest and roads and interstates were closed because of poor visibility Thursday as wind-driven snow danced parallel to the ground.

The Minnesota State Patrol responded to 174 crashes statewide, including one fatal crash, during a 5-hour period, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Large sections of the Midwest and South were under tornado watches Thursday as the storms pushed through the region, with flooding and building damage reported in Illinois, CNN reported.

As of late Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service said as many as eight tornadoes were reported in central Illinois. In Mechanicsburg, seven outbuildings were reported destroyed and one house had minor damage.

A National Weather Service investigation confirmed a tornado touched down in Delaware County, Ohio, early Friday, uprooting trees, downing power lines and damaging structures and vehicles.

A barn was destroyed by the tornado, and a fallen power line briefly trapped a woman in her car, WTTE-TV, Columbus, said, adding no injuries in the area were reported.

Severe thunderstorms threatened parts of Alabama, Georgia and Florida Friday, CNN said.

Flash-flood warnings were posted Friday from Missouri to western New York, and as far south as the Gulf Coast.

"The greatest areas at risk for gusty to locally severe thunderstorms overnight Thursday into Friday morning include, Alabama, Georgia, eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, southeastern Ohio and the central and southern Appalachians," meteorologist Erik Pindrock said.

The storm is forecast to move east Friday, threatening areas along the Atlantic coast, from the Delmarva Peninsula (occupying parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia), south to Raleigh, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Jacksonville, Fla., said.

About 24,000 people in Illinois lost power at one point, Ameren Illinois officials said. In Tennessee, Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division reported service disruption for 4,450 customers in Shelby County, which includes Memphis. Nearly 37,000 customers of Xcel Energy in eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, along with 400 customers of Dakota Electric were without power for several hours overnight, utility officials said.

Cancellations at U.S airports numbered 981and 4,799 flights were delayed as of midday Friday, reported.

John Dwyer, emergency management coordinator for Champaign County, Ill., reported road flooding and standing water in farm fields caused by the 3 inches of rain Thursday along with snow melt.

Fog was blamed for a crash involving at least 27 tractor trailers and passenger cars on Interstate 57 in northeast Illinois, CNN said. Authorities said there were reports of multiple injuries, but nothing life-threatening.

A number of school districts in Minnesota, including the state's three largest in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, were canceled Thursday, the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune reported. For some districts, it was the sixth snow day since January.

Early Friday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation classified Twin City metro area highways as hazardous, and advised no travel. Many roads remained closed in southern Minnesota, including southbound Interstate 35 from Owatonna to the Iowa border.

White-out conditions in the southwest and south-central part of the Minnesota forced Transportation Department officials to pull plows off some roads Thursday night and advise no travel for motorists, the Star Tribune said.

After the snow left Minnesota, frigid temperatures were forecast.

"We may struggle to get above zero late next week," said Chris Franks, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. "Wednesday night we could be into double-digit cold at minus 15. We could be running 30 to 40 degrees below normal. It will be the coldest we've seen this winter in terms of how much it is below normal."

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