Three people die in massive spring storm system

By Sommer Brokaw and Susan McFarland  |  Updated April 14, 2018 at 8:24 PM
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April 14 (UPI) -- Three deaths are blamed on a weekend storm system that brought blizzards, tornadoes, freezing rain and high winds that wreaked havoc on much of the nation.

In Nebraska, one person died and more than 100 people were rescued after a blizzard hit. The Nebraska State Patrol reported that Rollo Ward, 61, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, was pronounced dead at the scene after losing control of his semi tractor-trailer, which slid into the median and a stranded semi-truck on Interstate 80 in western Nebraska on Friday.

More than 100 motorists were stranded amid blowing snowfall, low visibility, and slick roads. Troopers in collaboration with the Cheyenne County Sheriff's Office, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, Cheyenne County Emergency Management and other workers and snow plows rescued the stranded individuals and vehicles.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Rob Cox told the Star-Herald the blizzard, which came from a disturbance to the south, should taper off Saturday, and then rising temperatures should melt the snow.

Cox added that snow storms are not that unusual in the area in April and could also occur in May.

Brian Hoeth, NWS emergency response meteorologist in Fort Worth, Texas, said the storm system is so expansive, "literally two-thirds of the country is getting some sort of impact from it."

"It's mid-April and we've got snow falling across basically the entire north-central United States," he told USA Today.

In Louisiana, a toddler was killed as a storm blew a large tree onto her family's RV around 12:30 a.m. Saturday. The girl was sleeping at the time, according to emergency officials.

In Wisconsin a woman was killed shortly before 6 a.m. Saturday when her minivan lost control on an icy highway and struck an oncoming SUV.

Officials closed Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as the storm system swept through, dumping snow on runways faster than crews could clear.

Other states facing heavy snow include Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and New York, as heavy snow, strong winds and freezing rain is expected through the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

In the south, winter freeze watches are also in place across eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas.

Minnesota is seeing historic snow levels, with rates falling up to 2 inches per hour and winds gusting to 45 mph, causing white-out conditions.

Along with Louisiana, strong thunderstorms slammed Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama with damaging wind gusts that caused widespread power outages and downed trees. On Sunday, the threat is expected to move east into Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.

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