Spring blizzard hits US Midwest; flights canceled, deaths reported


ATLANTA — Deadly spring storms that spawned tornadoes in the US South and blizzards in the Plains and Midwest was expected to continue to blast across the region on Sunday bringing more snow, rain and wind that have shut down airports and left thousands without power.

The storms stretch from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest and were moving into the Northeast and New England on Sunday, said Marc Chenard, a meteorologist with the NWS’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

About a foot of snow could fall Sunday on parts of northern Wisconsin, upstate Michigan and North Dakota, he said.

The threat of violent thunderstorms stretch from a corridor from the Florida peninsula to North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, said Chenard.

"No tornado warnings are issued yet for the area, but the conditions could be ripe for some in the afternoon," he said. On Friday, the system produced 17 reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas, the weather service said. Four people were injured and 160 buildings damaged in a possible tornado in northwest Arkansas, local media reported. At least two tornadoes packing winds up to 90 miles (145 km) per hour was reported in Mississippi this weekend, the NWS said.

The weather is blamed for two traffic fatalities in western Nebraska and Wisconsin, according to National Public Radio.

The storms also killed a 1-year-old girl when a tree fell on a recreational vehicle where she was sleeping, the sheriff’s office in Bossier Parish, Louisiana said.

Hundreds of flights have been canceled and roadways are treacherous in several Midwestern states.

All flights were grounded on Saturday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as a spring blizzard made it difficult to keep runways clear and planes deiced. Nearly 470 flights were canceled before one runway reopened shortly after 10 p.m., according to a spokesman. Blizzard conditions also forced the airport in South Dakota’s biggest city, Sioux Falls, to remain closed for a second straight day.

The Minnesota Twins home game against the Chicago White Sox was snowed out Saturday, marking the first back-to-back postponements of baseball games in the stadium’s nine seasons. Sunday’s game was also called off because of the storm, which by Saturday night had buried Minneapolis under more than 13 inches of snow (33 centimeters). The Yankees and Tigers were rained out Saturday in Detroit.

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 20 inches of snow (51 centimeters) by the time the storm blows through on Sunday.

“It’s a cool experience for me, the best Minneapolis experience,” Niko Heiligman, of Aachen, Germany, said as he braved the snow Saturday to take a walk along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. “I’m only here for the weekend, so I guess that’s how it goes. There’s snow and it’s cold. So it’s good.”

The weather was expected to persist through Sunday in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan before moving into New York state and New England. — Agencies