The winter-weary Northeast and upper Midwest were digging out Saturday from heavy snowfall while cleanup began in battered parts of the South and Midwest after a sprawling storm system produced ferocious winds that left widespread damage and caused at least 12 deaths.
Three people were killed by falling trees in Alabama as severe weather swept through the state. In Mississippi, a woman died inside her SUV after a rotted tree branch struck her vehicle, and in Arkansas, a man drowned after he drove into high floodwaters. Two deaths were also reported in Tennessee.
Five weather-related deaths also were reported in Kentucky in four different counties as storms with straight-line winds moved through the state. Gov. Andy Beshear had declared a state of emergency before the storm and on Friday evening the mayor of Louisville, Craig Greenberg, followed suit because of the severe storms, high winds, widespread damage and danger to lives and property.
“I encourage everyone in our community to exercise extreme caution this evening, and in the coming days – do not drive through standing water, do not approach downed power lines, or do anything that would put the lives of anyone at risk,” Greenberg said in a Facebook post.
Snow fell across a large swath of the Northeast, from western New York to New England, with some areas expecting more than a foot of snow on Saturday. The mix of snow, sleet and rain prompted the National Weather Service to warn of possible coastal flooding in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The storm could bring as much as 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow to parts of New Hampshire and Maine. It also could deliver strong winds that could cause power outages.
Hundreds of businesses were closed, many flights were canceled and some bus service was suspended. The heavy, wet snow was accompanied by winds gusting to 40 to 50 mph (64 to 80 kph), raising concerns about toppled trees and power outages, said meteorologist Jon Palmer with the National Weather Service in Maine.
A vehicle passenger died near the western Tennessee town of Waverly, the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office reports. The death was deemed to be weather-related, the sheriff’s office said.
Thousands of utility customers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan were still without power as of Saturday afternoon, according to the utility tracker PowerOutage.us.
In the upper Midwest, residents dug out Saturday from heavy snowfall that caused widespread power outages and forced Detroit’s Metropolitan Wayne County Airport to briefly close late Friday. Passengers were advised to check with airlines for flight delays on Saturday.
The storm barreled Friday afternoon into the Detroit area, quickly covering streets and roads beneath a layer of snow. The weather service said some areas could see blizzard conditions with snowfall approaching 3 inches per hour.
Detroit-based DTE Energy reported more than 130,000 customers lost power Friday evening. It was the latest slap after ice storms last week left more than 600,000 homes and businesses without power.
Also in Michigan, an 80-year-old man was struck and killed Friday evening by a snowplow that was backing up while clearing snow from a driveway in Ann Arbor, MLive.com reported. The snowplow driver said he didn’t know he had struck the man until a bystander got his attention, police said.
Victoria Burnett felt a sense of foreboding as the snow began falling Friday in Farmington Hills, northwest of Detroit. Burnett lost power for seven days following the first of two ice storms that slammed Michigan last week. She was able to use a generator until her service returned.
“At the end of the ice storm — Sunday and Monday — I was starting to get very depressed,” Burnett told The Associated Press on Saturday. “When it started snowing (Friday) and I saw it was heavy, wet snow, I was really worried.”
Burnett said her lights flickered, but the power remained on.
The National Weather Service reported poor road conditions and numerous vehicle crashes across much of northwest Indiana because of heavy snowfall Friday afternoon.
Airport officials in Portland, Maine, canceled several flights for Saturday ahead of the weather and some libraries and businesses in the region announced weekend closures. Still, with warmer weather expected to return by the end of the weekend, most New Englanders were taking the storm in stride.
It wasn’t the same story in California, where the weather system slammed the state earlier in the week with as much as 10 feet of snow. Some residents in mountains east of Los Angeles will likely remain stranded in their homes for at least another week after the snowfall proved too much to handle for most plows.
Many residents of Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas emerged Friday to find their homes and businesses damaged and trees toppled by the reported tornadoes.
In Alabama, a 70-year-old man sitting in his truck in Talledega County was killed when a tree fell onto his vehicle. A 43-year-old man in Lauderdale County and a man in Huntsville also were killed by falling trees Friday, local authorities said.
In Texas, winds brought down trees, ripped the roof off a grocery store in Little Elm, north of Dallas, and overturned four 18-wheelers along. Minor injuries were reported, police said.
Winds of nearly 80 mph were recorded near the Fort Worth suburb of Blue Mound. The roof of an apartment building in the suburb of Hurst was blown away, resident Michael Roberts told KDFW-TV.
“The whole building started shaking…The whole ceiling is gone,” Roberts said. “It got really crazy.”
Heavy rain was also reported in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, causing flooding in both states.
In southwest Arkansas, Betty Andrews told KSLA-TV that she and her husband took shelter in the bathroom of their mobile home while a tornado moved through.
“It was very scary. I opened the front door to look out and saw it coming. I grabbed Kevin and went and got into the bathtub,” Andrews said. “We hunkered down, and I said some prayers until it passed.”
They were OK but the home sustained major damage and the couple was temporarily trapped in the bathroom until a neighbor cleared debris from outside the door.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, Minnesota and Wisconsin expected areas of freezing fog with less than a quarter mile of visibility into the weekend, the weather service said. In North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, highways could get up to 10 inches of snow and 45 mph wind gusts on Sunday and Monday.
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