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Blizzard Belts Midwest with Snow, Wind, Lightning

January 26, 1990

Undated (AP) _ A blizzard belted the upper Midwest with up to 10 inches of snow Thursday, packing high winds that ripped roofs off buildings in Michigan and lightning that injured 12 people in Illinois.

In severe weather elsewhere, a tornado tore through a trailer park in Centenary, Ala., injuring 24 people.

The snowstorm brought traffic to a standstill in parts of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana. Storm warnings for snow and high wind remained in effect into the night in some areas.

Airline flights were delayed up to two hours at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport because of blowing snow and high wind, said Lisa Howard, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Aviation.

″This is a red alert storm,″ Ms. Howard said. ″Things are at a standstill.″

The weather also caused scattered power outages and temporarily closed airports in Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Detroit.

In Crystal Lake, Ill., 35 miles northwest of Chicago, a lightning bolt struck a telephone pole and was conducted through snow across a parking lot, injuring 11 people. Two were in serious condition.

Workers at Precision Twist Drill Co. were trying to help each other free their cars from six inches of snow that fell overnight when the bolt struck at 8:30 a.m., said Art Beck, company president.

″There were sparks coming through their fingers,″ Beck said of the injured.

Lightning also struck a woman’s umbrella in the Chicago suburb of Palatine, slightly injuring her as she was on her way to work at William Rainey Harper College, said school spokeswoman Elaine Stoermer.

Wind up to 60 mph peeled roofs off buildings and uprooted trees in southeast Michigan.

In Auburn Hills, just north of Detroit, wind tore the roof off one of three Headquarters Motel buildings. No one was injured.

″Several other buildings in the area lost parts of their roofs, but the motel lost the whole thing. It’s open air,″ said Auburn Hills police Sgt. Jerry Knapp.

In Ohio, two U.S. marshals were injured when a tree fell on their car as they were returning from a firing range near Toledo. One, David Hartzel, was in serious condition at Flower Memorial Hospital in suburban Sylvania with head injuries.

Winds gusting to 50 mph in downtown Indianapolis blew out windows from the 21st and 36th floors of the INB National Bank Tower, injuring a 54-year-old woman who received a cut on her right thigh from falling glass.

Farther south in Centenary, Ala., a tornado flipped or split open a dozen mobile homes at about 5:30 a.m., strewing furniture, clothes, toys and pink insulation about the area 40 miles south of Montgomery.

Among the injured was a boy rescued by a man who lifted the corner of a shattered mobile home that pinned him, witnesses said.

Of the 24 people hospitalized, three were children with serious head injuries, said Nancy Williams, spokeswoman for the county hospital.

The Midwest blizzard was blamed for many minor accidents as cars slid off snow-covered roads, and many people simply stayed home.

Illinois state police closed 35- to 40-mile stretches of Interstate 90 near Elgin and I-88 outside Aurora for two hours beginning at 11:30 a.m., said Sgt. Tami Haukedahl.

In Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula schools and businesses closed early, cars and buses slid off the roads and even snow plows got stuck.

″We’re losing ground at this point,″ said Wexford County road engineer Pat McCormick in Cadillac. ″We’re making the way clear for school buses where we can. They’re stuck all over the place.″

The storm lashed southeast Iowa with 45 mph winds that whipped 5 inches of snow into a treacherous near-whiteout on roads slick with ice.

″Not only is there zero visibility, but you can turn left and not go left,″ said Bob Wilson, district manager for the American Automobile Association’s Motor Club of Iowa. ″People could die out there.″