Snow, Rain Move into Midwest; Rain Leaves California
Undated (AP) _ Freezing rain, sleet and snow moved across the Midwest on Saturday and a tropical storm that soaked parts of dry California headed eastward.
Rain-swollen rivers in southern Indiana continued to push out of their banks. The flooding is a remnant of melting snow and rain from a week ago that swelled nearly every major river in the state to flood stage.
President Bush declared parts of Indiana a disaster area on Saturday, making 11 counties eligible for extra federal relief money.
In southern Indiana, volunteers in Hazleton used sandbags to shore up a levee holding back the White River. Officials said they were satisfied with preparations for a flood crest.
″We had all kinds of warning that this was coming on, so we’re prepared,″ said Randy Peil, a town board member.
Steve Schulz, the chief of field operations for the State Emergency Management Agency, said ″The city has done all that it can do.
″There’s no threat to homes or residents or any of that thing,″ said Schulz, who was in Hazleton.
The river was expected to crest Sunday or Monday at 11 1/2 feet above flood stage. More than 2,000 people across the state fled their homes last week and more evacuees were expected as the White, Wabash and other rivers continue to rise.
Snow was falling Saturday in Illinois, and snow was forecast for Wisconsin and Michigan. The storm was expected to bring snow, sleet and freezing rain across the middle Mississippi Valley into the upper Great Lakes region.
An ice storm at dawn paralyzed St. Louis and closed Lambert-St. Louis airport. Police told people to stay off roads and interstates.
In Oklahoma, thousands of workers were sent home early Friday as roads iced up, as did the runways at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport, forcing a few flight cancellations.
Southerly winds were pumping warmer air into Oklahoma early Saturday, but temperatures were expected to drop below freezing later and create a new layer of ice on roadways.
″Ice is the toughest challenge Mother Nature throws at us,″ said state Transportation Department spokesman Andy Oden. ″Rain runs off, snow can be shoveled off, but ice is harder.″
Icy conditions were blamed for at least three traffic deaths in Oklahoma on Friday, including a woman and her 10-year-old daughter who were killed when their pickup collided with a school bus. No one on the bus was hurt.
A 17-year-old girl was struck and killed in a traffic accident early Saturday in southern Illinois. She was hit by a car while pushing a disabled car off icy Interstate 55.
In Arkansas, two men and a women died after their car apparently became stalled in water on a flooded road next to the Current River in Randolph County and they left the car to get to higher ground. The three died of exposure, said state police investigator Steve Huddleston. Two bodies were found Friday a short distance from the car, and the third was found Saturday; the three had been missing since Tuesday.
Seven more people were reported killed in weather-related accidents in Texas on Thursday and Friday, and three in Missouri, including a farmer whose tractor went out of control and overturned.
The nearly 3 inches of rain that fell in Southern California did little to make up for the region’s rainfall deficit.
Rainfall totals since the front arrived late Wednesday averaged an inch in the coastal and valley areas to around 2 inches in the mountains, said meteorologist Bob Grebe of the National Weather Service.
Water officials and farmers alike said they were disappointed with the storm’s output.
The precipitation was ″nice, but we need 20 times that. We need 19 more storms like this,″ said Terry Schaeffer, a weather service agricultural meteorologist in Santa Paula. ″I’d rather see a deluge.″ In northern California, the problem was heavy fog, which closed the San Francisco International Airport for over an hour Saturday morning and was blamed for a multivehicle accident on the Dumbarton Bridge that links San Mateo and Alameda counties at the south end of the San Francisco Bay.