Storm Spreads Snow from Texas to Ohio Valley, Heads for East Coast
Undated (AP) _ A major storm spread snow and ice from the Gulf Coast states to Michigan on Thursday, causing scores of traffic accidents that left at least eight dead, while temperatures in the upper Midwest plunged to as low as 37 degrees below zero.
″Sure was a short spring,″ said Eric Sandin in Shreveport, La., where light snow fell and the temperature dropped 33 degrees overnight to a low of 27. ″I’m from Minnesota and it’s just like being at home.″
Snow also fell Thursday from northern Texas across parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, lower Michigan and Ohio.
″This is the heaviest and most intense and longest-lasting storm that we have had for at least three years,″ said Chicago Streets and Sanitation spokeswoman Kirsten Svare. Up to 14 inches fell in Greater Chicago.
Winter storm warnings were issued for sections of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and lower Michigan. And on Friday snow and rain were forecast along the East Coast from North Carolina into New England, the National Weather Service said.
Eleven inches of snow fell at Montpelier, Ohio. More than 7 inches fell at Detroit and a like amount at Fort Wayne, Ind., which declared a snow emergency. Over a foot of snow fell overnight at a ski resort near Lisle, Ill., about 35 miles west of Chicago. Wichita Falls, Texas, got 3 inches of snow in four hours, but it piled up in drifts up to a foot deep, the weather service reported.
Major airlines reduced their schedules at Chicago’s O’Hare airport Thursday because of the weather. On Wednesday a Continental Airlines DC-9 slid 20 feet past the end of a runway after landing during the snowfall, but no injuries were reported.
Blowing and drifting snow made travel hazardous, and many Chicago commuters opted for public transportation, packing rapid transit trains during the morning rush hour and causing some delays, said Chicago Transit Authority spokesman Don Yabush.
Temperatures were below zero on the northern Plains and upper Mississippi Valley. Record lows included 35 below zero at Bismarck, N.D., and at Aberdeen, S.D.; 31 below at Duluth, Minn.; and 35 below at International Falls, Minn. The coldest was 37 below zero at Bemidji, Minn.
As far south as northwestern Arkansas, overnight temperatures were in the single digits and lows along the Kansas-Oklahoma border were near zero, the weather service said.
In the central Texas city of San Angelo, the temperature plunged from 72 degrees Wednesday to 25 at midnight. Wichita Falls., Texas, posted a record low of 7.
Meanwhile, the Southwest was in the middle of a heat wave that saw temperatures climb to record levels in California, where highs included 83 in San Diego and 78 in San Francisco.
A combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain made streets and roads treacherous across parts of the Plains, causing scores of traffic accidents.
″Everything in this area is very icy and hazardous,″ Arkansas state police spokeswoman Diane Carter said in Little Rock.
Traffic deaths attributed to bad weather included five in Arkansas, three in Indiana and one in Kentucky.
In Texas, a woman and three children were hospitalized after their car spun off an icy road and flipped into Lake Ray Hubbard northeast of Dallas, officials said.
One of the children, a 4-year-old girl, was in the water for 10 minutes before rescuers pulled her out, and she was in stable condition at a nearby hospital, said Sue Mitchell of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office.
A section of Interstate 80 in Wyoming was closed Thursday afternoon due to ground blizzard conditions.
Schools were closed in parts of northern Texas and Arkansas.
The foul weather in Texas, where wind gusted up to 45 mph, even postponed Friday’s baseball opener at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. ″They just decided it was too cold to be hitting a baseball out there,″ said Jan Robson, a secretary at the school.
At Hot Springs, Ark., the Oaklawn Park thoroughbred horse-racing track canceled its program Thursday because of slippery streets and highways in the area, said track spokesman Terry Wallace.
High wind blowing over Texas knocked out power to Rockwall, a suburban Dallas community of 6,000, during the night, said Jerome Davis, a spokesman for Texas Utilities. He said most areas were restored in a few hours.
Street crews in Chicago had already used 125,000 tons of salt so far this winter as of Wednesday night, said spokeswoman Ms. Svare. The city used 88,000 tons during all of last year’s milder winter, she said.
Between midnight and 6 a.m. Thursday, Chicago authorities towed 829 cars illegally parked on snow routes, Ms. Svare said. The city does not plow side streets and did not expect to salt them before Friday, she added.
Despite the snow and cold, water receded along the Fox River west of Chicago, which was declared a state disaster area earlier in the week because of flooding caused by ice jams. About 50 families remained evacuated, officials said.
In California, temperatures were already in the 70s and 80s by late morning and San Diego hit 83 by 11 a.m., two degrees above Wednesday’s record. Record highs also were recorded in many northern California communities, including 78 in San Francisco.