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Spring Blizzard Follows Twisters in Plains

March 24, 1987

Undated (AP) _ A spring blizzard blew into Kansas and Oklahoma on Monday, carrying blinding snow with winds up to 78 mph to the same part of the Plains where tornadoes struck the day before, slightly injuring six people.

The blizzard was blamed for two traffic deaths in Oklahoma.

In western Kansas wind-whipped snow reduced visibility to an eighth of a mile in places, closing businesses and forcing authorities to call out five National Guardsmen to carry children from schools in Garden City to a shelter. Officials could not get the children home.

Wind gusts reached 78 mph at Dodge City, Kansas, and many roads were closed in the area as visibilities dropped to near zero. In Liberal, wind blew down power lines and cut electricity to a National Beef packing plant, closing the facility that employs about 2,500 workers. Classes at Fort Hays State University were called off at noon.

″We’re in a blizzard. You can’t see a block,″ Willma Baker, a Scott City weather watcher, said Monday.

Parts of Kansas were expected to receive 10 to 12 inches of snow before the storm ends early Tuesday. By midafternoon the snow measured about 6 inches at Hill City and Hays in northwestern Kansas to 3 to 4 inches at Liberal and Dodge City in the southwest.

The storm walloped the Oklahoma Panhandle with 4 inches to 6 inches of snow, but the whipping winds made the amount of snow hard to measure.

″We can’t talk to our units because they are stranded about 10 miles from here. You can’t see or move,″ said Beaver County, Okla., Sheriff Bill Cassingham, adding that parts of the area had been without power for hours.

Motorists were stranded from blowing snow and winds of up to nearly 60 mph, said Highway Patrol Trooper Louis Flowers. He said the storm was blamed for two traffic deaths in that state, but could not immediately provide details.

The storm, which was centered over Oklahoma, also hammered at the Texas Panhandle, producing 5 inches of snow near Amarillo. Stalled trucks forced the closure of Interstate 40 west of Amarillo.

The blizzard followed strong thunderstorms and tornadoes that struck northwestern Oklahoma late Sunday, slightly injuring six people, including two in a car blown off a road.

The highway patrol said Clifford Dawes and three of his family members were also treated for minor injuries after a tornado destroyed his house near Elmwood, a barn and some farm machinery.

″The next thing he knew, he looked up and saw the sky and the rain because his house was gone,″ said Dawes Sheriff Bill Cassingham.

Two tornadoes touched down Sunday in Rooks County, Kan., where Sheriff Frank Skovold said no one was injured. The twisters demolished buildings on two farms.

Monday’s bad weathe extended to New Mexico’s east-central and northeastern plains, where strong winds and blowing snow iced roads and made driving hazardous.

Four to 6 inches of snow fell in central Nebraska while rivers and creeks rose in the eastern part of the state. The threat of floods closed schools near DeWitt and in Cedar Rapids. Up to 4 inches of rain had fallen in eastern Nebraska since Sunday, and more was expected.

In Linton, N.D., rapid snowmelt, ice jams and recent rains caused flooding that forced fewer than two dozen families from their homes. Rivers and creeks were swollen throughout south-central and southwestern North Dakota.

Rainshowers extended as far north as the Dakotas and the upper Mississippi Valley, with thunderstorms as far north as Wisconsin and southern Minnesota.

A weaker storm brought snow and gusty winds to mountain parts of California and Nevada.

Sunny and mild weather prevailed across the eastern third of the country, with temperatures mostly in the 60s and 70s.

Temperatures around the nation at 3 a.m. EST ranged from 16 degrees at Yellowstone Park, Wyo., to 81 degrees at McAllen, Texas; Meridian, Miss.; and Sarasota, Fla.

Record highs were recorded in Alpena, Mich., where a reading of 59 degrees exceeded by three degrees the record set in 1963, and in Paducah, Ky., where a temperature of 79 degrees bested the record of 74 degrees set in 1967.

Tuesday’s forecast called for showers and thunderstorms from the middle Mississippi Valley to the southern Atlantic Coast and the central and eastern Gulf Coast. Rainshowers should prevail across the upper Mississippi Valley and the northern and central Plains, with snow lingering over parts of the northern and central high Plains.

A few rainshowers should be over the northern Pacific Coast. Fair to partly sunny skies should prevail across the rest of the nation.

Temperatures should remain below 50 degrees all day from the northern Rockies and the northern Plains to northern Arizona and the northeastern half of Nevada, with highs in the 30s from North Dakota to the central Rockies and the central high Plains. Temperatures should warm above 60 degrees over much of California, southern Arizona and southern New Mexico, and from the Gulf Coast states to New York state and the lower Great Lakes region. Highs in the 70s should prevail from south central Texas to Florida and southern Georgia.

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