Environment

Massive storm system sweeps through US, at least 3 deaths reported


A massive storm system reaching from Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes has afflicted the central United States on April 13 – 15 with heavy snow, tornadoes, rain, and hail, forcing flight cancellations, creating dangerous road conditions and killing at least three people.

All flights were grounded most of April 14, 2018, at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as heavy snow made it difficult to keep runways clear. Almost 470 flights were canceled before one runway was able to be opened shortly after 03:00 UTC (22:00 local time). Blizzard conditions also forced the airport in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to remain closed for a second straight day, according to AP.

On the night of April 14, Minneapolis received more than 33 cm (13 inches) of snow.

Authorities closed several highways in southwestern Minnesota, where no travel was advised, and driving conditions were difficult across the southern half of the state. The National Weather Service predicted that a large swath of southern Minnesota, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, could get up to 51 cm (20 inches) of snow by the time the storm blows through on April 15, according to AP.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, it has tallied 403 crashes from the beginning of April 13 through April 15, 01:45 UTC (20:45 local time). 47 crashes involved injuries, two of them serious, one in Brainerd and one in St. Cloud. The State Patrol also reported one fatal incident in Medina involving a pedestrian.

The State Patrol also reported 738 spin-outs or vehicles that went off the road, including 16 jack-knifed semi trucks.

Highway 52 was closed in both directions for hours on April 14, between County Road 46 in Coates and Highway 50 in Hampton due to an injury accident. The highway reopened shortly before 23:00 UTC (18:00 local time), according to the State Patrol.

The storm is expected to persist through April 15 in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan before moving to New York state and New England.

Up to 46 cm (18 inches) of snow had fallen by early April 14 in parts of northern Wisconsin, with another 36 cm (14 inches) expected by the evening of April 15. Winds of up to 88.5 km/h (55 mph) were recorded in Green Bay.

The National Weather Service also warned of potential coastal flooding along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin and Illinois, where Chicago residents were warned that waves could reach as high as 5.5 meters (18 feet).

Wind gusts of up to 80 km/h (50 mph) with snow blew through parts of South Dakota, causing blizzard conditions that made travel extremely difficult. Blizzard warning was lifted in the western part of the state, but it remained in effect for southern and eastern South Dakota.

In Sioux Falls, police said the blowing snow made it hard to see anything. Several inches of snow fell in various parts of the state, including 46 cm (18 inches) in the eastern South Dakota city of Huron, AP reported.

Thousands of customers in Michigan were knocked out of power by the storm, and the state was expected to get more snow and ice through the weekend.

In Arkansas, a tornado ripped through the town of Ozark Mountain on April 13, injuring at least four people and causing extensive damage. Uprooted trees, overturned cars, damaged buildings and downed power lines were witnessed. Powerful winds also damaged several buildings at the University of Central Arkansas, but no injuries were reported.

South of Dallas and Fort Worth the storm brought hail the size of hen eggs, according to meteorologist Patricia Sanchez. In Austin, fire officials said strong winds helped spread the flames after lightning struck two houses that suffered heavy damage.

Featured image: Weather.com





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