Storm pum­mels U.S.; thou­sands lose power

Storm

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jim Van An­glen

High winds and heavy snow dis­rupted hol­i­day travel, knocked out power to thou­sands of homes and caused at least six deaths as a pow­er­ful win­ter storm sys­tem pounded the na­tion’s mid­sec­tion Wed­nes­day, then headed to­ward the North­east.

More than 1,000 flights were can­celed or de­layed, scores of mo­torists got stuck on icy roads or slid into drifts, and bl­iz­zard warn­ings were is­sued. Snowy gusts of 30 mph blan­keted roads and wind­shields, at times caus­ing white­out con­di­tions.

“The way I’ve been de­scrib­ing it is as a low-end bl­iz­zard, but that’s sort of like say­ing a small Tyran­nosaurus rex,” said John Kwiatkowski, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Indianapolis.

The sys­tem, which spawned tor­na­does in the Gulf Coast

re­gion on Christ­mas Day, pushed through the up­per Ohio Val­ley en route to west­ern New York and Maine, where fore­casts called for 12 to 18 inches of snow. Bos­ton and New York City were ex­pected to be spared the worst of the weather.

The storm left freez­ing tem­per­a­tures in its af­ter­math, and fore­cast­ers also said parts of the South­east from Vir­ginia to Florida would see se­vere thun­der­storms.

With schools on break and work­ers tak­ing hol­i­day va­ca­tions, many peo­ple were able avoid messy com­mutes, but those who had to travel were im­plored to avoid it. Snow was blamed for scores of ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents as far east as Mary­land, and about two dozen coun­ties in In­di­ana and Ohio is­sued snow emer­gency travel alerts, urg­ing peo­ple to go out on the roads only if nec­es­sary.

About 40 ve­hi­cles got bogged down try­ing to make it up a slick hill in cen­tral In­di­ana, and four state snow­plows slid off roads as snow fell at the rate of 3 inches an hour in some places.

Two pas­sen­gers in a car on a sleet-slick­ened Arkansas high­way were killed Wed­nes­day in a head-on col­li­sion, and two peo­ple, in­clud­ing a 76-yearold Mil­wau­kee woman, were killed Tues­day on Ok­la­homa high­ways. Deaths from wind-top­pled trees were re­ported in Texas and Louisiana.

Traf­fic crawled at 25 mph on In­ter­state 81 in Mary­land, where au­thor­i­ties re­ported scores of ac­ci­dents.

“We’re go­ing to try to go down South and get be­low” the storm, said Richard Power, trav­el­ing from home in Le­vit­town, N.Y., to Ken­tucky with his wife, two chil­dren and their bea­gle, Lucky. He said they were well on their way un­til they hit snow in Penn­syl­va­nia, then 15-mph traf­fic on I-81 at Hagerstown, Md.

More than 1,400 flights were can­celed by evening, ac­cord­ing to FlightAware.com, and some air­lines said they would waive change fees. De­lays of more than an hour were re­ported Wed­nes­day at the three New York City-area air­ports, the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion said.

In Arkansas, some of the nearly 200,000 peo­ple who lost power could be with­out it for as long as a week be­cause of snapped poles and wires af­ter ice and 10 inches of snow coated power lines, said the state’s largest util­ity, En­tergy Arkansas. Gov. Mike Beebe sent out Na­tional Guard teams, and Humvees trans­ported med­i­cal work­ers and pa­tients. Snow hadn’t fallen in Lit­tle Rock on Christ­mas since 1926, but the cap­i­tal ended Tues­day with 10.3 inches.

As the storm moved east, New Eng­land state high­way de­part­ments were treat­ing roads and get­ting ready to mo­bi­lize with snowfall fore­casts of a foot or more that was ex­pected to start fall­ing late Wed­nes­day and through to­day.

“Peo­ple are pick­ing up salt and a lot of shov­els to­day,” said Andy Green­wood, an as­sis­tant man­ager at Aubu­chon Hard­ware in Keene, N.H.

Be­hind the storm, Mis­sis­sippi’s gov­er­nor de­clared states of emer­gency in eight coun­ties with more than 25 peo­ple re­ported in­jured and 70 homes left dam­aged.

Cindy Wil­liams, 56, stood near a home in Mc­Neill, Miss., where its front had col­lapsed into a pile, a bal­cony and the porch ripped apart. But she fo­cused on the fact that her fam­ily had es­caped harm.

“We are so thank­ful,” she said. “God took care of us.”

ChrIS Ste­WArt / DAy­ton DAILy neWS

DAY­TON, OHIO: A pedes­trian walks on a snow-cov­ered road dur­ing a bl­iz­zard Wed­nes­day. About two dozen coun­ties in Ohio and In­di­ana is­sued snow emer­gency travel alerts.

G.M. AN­DREWS / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

MO­BILE, ALA.: Teacher Le­land Howard sal­vages items Wed­nes­day from his class­room in a tem­po­rary build­ing at Murphy High School fol­low­ing a Christ­mas Day tor­nado.

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