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Pacific Storm Adds To Brutality Of Weather That Has Killed 61

December 16, 1987

Undated (AP) _ West Coast residents braced today for an intense Pacific storm expected to sweep across the nation like the system blamed for Midwest blizzards, Southern tornadoes and at least 65 deaths.

As the new storm crawled east, a homeless man died in a doorway in Los Angeles. National Guard armories across California opened their doors to the homeless on the order of Gov. George Deukmejian, and Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley directed city recreation centers to do the same.

″This is supposed to be a whacking big storm, and the shelters will stay open as long as the weather is as bad as it is,″ Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Mike Gage said.

The homeless man, who carried no identification, had a body temperature 20 degrees below normal, authorities said.

Gale warnings were posted for most of the California coastline, and storm and high-wind warnings were issued for the central coast.

″You could call it the sister of this storm,″ said Roy Pringle of the National Weather Service in Milwaukee, referring to the storm that began over the weekend and closed Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and schools in 11 states.

Millions of Americans spent Tuesday cleaning up from record snowfalls in the Southwest, blizzard conditions in the Midwest and tornadoes in the South.

The system blew from the Great Lakes into Maine overnight, smothering parts of the state under as much as a foot of snow, much to the delight of ski resort operators. More snow was expected to fall in the state’s northeastern section, changing to a mixture of rain and snow along the coast before ending on Thursday.

Wind, combined with up to 14 inches of snow in the Midwest on Tuesday snapped power lines, tore loose trees and caused widespread power outages, including ones that affected 170,000 Chicago-area residents and 114,000 people across Michigan.

The weather service warned residents of California’s central coast and southern mountains to expect 2 to 5 inches of rain today because a strong storm expected had stalled at sea and was intensifying just west of the San Francisco Bay area.

″I don’t know if it will be the worst storm in years, but it will be cold, windy, with high surf. It’s a winter storm,″ said meteorologist Michael Lewis.

Five inches of snow covered Eugene, Ore., and schools closed in Portland and outlying areas. Traffic snarled as a pair of trucks jackknifed on Interstate 5 in southern Oregon, and one man was killed when his car collided with a logging truck on U.S. 20 in the central part of the state.

The other storm left highways icy or snowpacked across the Plains, and caused school closings in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

Blizzard conditions Tuesday in southern Wisconsin diminished to flurries early today, but not before snowfall totaled 12.8 inches at Madison and 10 inches at Green Bay. Winds gusted to 73 mph at Janesville.

Workers plowed the runway at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport, which was closed Tuesday, to allow an emergency medical jet to fly to Seattle with bone marrow needed in a transplant operation for a 6-year-old leukemia victim. The operation for Brooke Ward was scheduled to take five hours today at Fred Hutchinson Memorial Cancer Center.

At a restaurant on the Ohio River at Cincinnati, secretary Cindy Brown said Tuesday, ″The river’s white-capping. It looks like the ocean.″

In the Midwest, Tuesday’s efforts to dig out were summed up by Don Hodo, a dispatcher for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who said, ″You might call today the Big Meltdown.″

Rising temperatures helped some, but snow removal crews worked into the night clearing streets in Kansas City, Mo., where drifts in some residential areas were 5 feet deep. Some Missouri schools were expected to be closed again today.

Several New Mexico school districts also were closed today, as the Southwest coped with unfamiliar icy roads.

The weather service in West Texas predicted lows early today of 3 to 8 degrees in Amarillo, 8 to 12 degrees in Lubbock and about 15 degrees in El Paso, refreezing the weekend’s record snowfall of 22 inches in El Paso and 13 inches in Amarillo. Tuesday’s low of 2 degrees at Lubbock International Airport broke a 10-degree record set in 1910.

Flight schedules were returning to normal today at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, the nation’s busiest, where 8 inches of snow Tuesday morning caused the first closing since 1979.

″It’s strange. It’s empty,″ said Leslie Taylor, 25, who fuels planes. ″It’s like a ghost town. Usually you can’t even walk in here right now. It’s peak season.″

The weather produced heroes and tragedies.

Freddy McCollegan of Granite City, Ill., dived into 6 feet of freezing water early Tuesday to pull a woman from her car after it skidded off an icy roadway in southern Illinois.

Karl G. Holzman, 54-year-old safety commissioner in Zion, Ill., suffered a fatal heart attack after shoveling snow in front of his home.

Since Saturday, the weather was blamed for 21 other deaths in Illinois; 13 in Wisconsin; five in New Mexico; three each in Indiana, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas; two in Missouri and Kansas. Six people died in Monday night’s tornado that hit West Memphis, Ark.

One woman was killed by a falling tree in California and a 17-year-old got lost after cutting a Christmas tree and froze to death in Colorado.