Chill Numbs North, Floods Force Evacuations
Undated (AP) _ Unrelenting cold held on Wednesday from Iowa to the snowbound Pacific Northwest, while heavy rain brought flooding that forced hundreds to evacuate in Pennsylvania and West Virginia and loosed a wall of mud across an Ohio highway.
A blizzard struck Jackson Hole, Wyo., where visibility was reduced to near zero by snow blown by 86 mph winds.
Elsewhere, a wall of a 12-story office building in Nashville, Tenn., was torn off in a severe thunderstorm and a tornado just north of Jacks Creek, Tenn., ripped the roof off a house and downed trees and power lines.
Storms also dumped more than 7 inches of rain in parts of Arkansas, causing street flooding, school closings and contributing to an eight-vehicle, chain- reaction accident on Interstate 30 near Little Rock that killed a 2-year- old child, state police said.
Bad weather since the weekend was blamed for 28 deaths, most of them traffic fatalities.
Mud piled as high as 11 feet blocked a 10-mile stretch of Ohio Route 7 along the Ohio River, stranding two truckers in the muck but causing no injuries.
″It might be at least a mile or two miles long,″ sheriff’s Deputy Charles Woolf said of the worst of a dozen slides near the Ohio-West Virginia line.
In West Virginia’s northern Panhandle, which got more than 3 inches of rain in 18 hours ending early Wednesday, about 700 people were forced from their homes as Wheeling Creek rose to more than 6 feet above flood stage.
But officials said the water, which filled basements and mobile homes, was receding later in the day. ″The immediate danger has passed,″ said Dave Kent, at the county jail in Wheeling. ″Nobody’s housing was washed away that I know of.″
Much of the area covered by the flood watch was hit hard three weeks ago by flooding that killed at least 38 people and caused at least $480 million in damage statewide.
In Rowlesburg, W.Va. rain threatened to top a temporary dam on the Cheat River built by workers repairing a railroad bridge wiped out by the earlier flood, officials said. If the dam were to break, a wall of water up to 5 feet high would rush along the river from Rowlesburg to Albright, the National Weather Service said.
Families were returning to their homes around Dunbar, Pa., on Wednesday after being evacuated because of flooding. At least 150 residents were forced from their homes Tuesday night after Dunbar Creek flooded its banks, said Richard Adobato of the Fayette County Emergency Management Agency.
November’s rainfall reached 10.28 inches at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport at 4 p.m., topping the previous monthly record of 10.25 inches set in June 1951, National Weather Service hydrologist Aldo Angelo said.
Besides West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, flash flood watches or warnings were posted Wednesday in Kentucky, southern Illinois, southeast Missouri and northeast Texas.
Classes were canceled Wednesday in three rural counties in central Arkansas because high water prevented buses from reaching students, authorities said.
In Nashville, a large portion of an outer wall of Parkview Towers was torn away during a storm, leaving offices exposed from the six floor to the tenth floor on the rear side of the building, said Don Campbell, assistant fire chief.
″It could have been lightning, it could have been heavy winds, or a small tornado,″ said Don Campbell, assistant fire chief in Nashville. ″I suspect it was heavy winds.″
A 15-car pile-up on Interstate 65 in Nashville snarled traffic, but no injuries were reported.
Showers fell from Texas to Kentucky, Tennessee and the mid-Atlantic coast region. Ice was a problem in some areas, and travelers’ advisories were posted across the Oklahoma panhandle and central Missouri, where freezing drizzle fell.
Travelers’ advisories for snow, sleet or freezing rain were issued across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, inland southern New England and for southwestern Maine, southern New Hampshire and northeast New York.
Freezing rain near Randolph, Maine, brought Thanksgiving vacation a day early for students in that area.
An unaccustomed heavy snow in western Washington dumped up to 19 inches in parts of the normally mild region.
The snow forced the closing of Interstate 90, the main east-west route across Washington, for four hours Wednesday between Ellensburg and the Moses Lake area.
A 45-year-old woman was killed Wednesday in a traffic accident in Spokane blamed on the snow.
″I think the important thing right now is that everybody stay home today,″ advised forecaster Bruce Renneke in Seattle, which got 8 inches of snow.
Bellingham, Wash., buried under a foot of new snow, shivered in gusty winds that dropped the wind chill factor to 45 degrees below zero.
Bitter cold described the weather in a band across the northern tier of states, stretching to Minnesota. Fourteen low temperature records for the date were broken Wednesday, including 23 degrees below zero at International Falls, Minn., 20 below at Williston, N.D., minus 18 in Valentine, Neb., 3 below at Norfolk, Neb., and 1 below at the Sioux City, Iowa, airport.
Wednesday was the sixth straight day of record breaking chill at Billings, Mont., but it reached a record-high 71 degrees in Greenville, S.C.
Meanwhile, as snow fell Tuesday on Haleakala Crater on Hawaii’s island of Maui for the first time since the 1970s, officials in Alabama said roses and azaleas were blooming out of season because of unusual warmth.
Thanksgiving Day without frost on the pumpkin is rare in Alabama, but temperatures have been running 15 to 20 degrees above normal for late November, and Huntsville hit a record 75 degrees Wednesday.
″It’s icy north of the jet stream,″ the wide column of air 40,000 feet up that steers weather systems across the country, said Erwin Varns of the National Weather Service in Birmingham. ″Below the jet the air is tropical.″