Near white out conditions, thunder snow and strong winds swept into the Midwest, bringing transportation to a halt in several states. And in the South, a wintry mix of rain, snow and sleet created dangerous icy conditions. The Weather Channel’s Mike Seidel reports.
By Erin McClam and Matthew DeLuca
Lumbering coast to coast, a winter storm hammered the Great Plains on Thursday, and more than a dozen more states were forecast to be hit in coming days.
Accidents were reported across the region, with one death: an Oklahoma teenager who was killed when his pickup truck skidded across a slushy road.
By evening, more than 14 inches of snow had fallen on the ground in Wichita, Kan., the second largest on record and the most the city had seen in 50 years.
The Weather Channel said snow totals would be formidable: Up to a foot of snow for Omaha, Neb., 3 to 6 inches of snow and sleet for St. Louis, 8 to 12 inches of snow for Kansas City, Mo., and 3 to 6 inches of snow for Chicago.
Kansas and Missouri declared states of emergency as plows struggled to keep up with a system dumping as much as 3 inches of snow per hour, and a swath of the country from Ohio to Arkansas prepared for a coating of dangerous ice.
“I do want to urge everybody in the state: If you don’t have to travel, don’t,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said. “Get out a board game, play with the kids, drink a cup of coffee.”
United, Southwest Airlines, AirTran Airways, American Airlines and American Eagle said they had canceled hundreds of flights for Thursday and Friday, and Kansas City International Airport was closed altogether. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has already cancelled more 200 flights scheduled for Friday.
Raymore, Mo., reported more than 10 inches of snow. Topeka, Kan., had 9.2 inches, the most in a day since January 1993. Alva, Okla., had more than a foot on the ground.
Advisories for snow, ice, wind or rain were posted as far south as the Texas Panhandle, as far north as Minnesota and Wisconsin and as far east as the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Authorities closed a 90-mile stretch of Interstate 70, which forms a belt across Kansas and Missouri.
The speed of the snowfall is “going to be overwhelming even the best snow-clearing capabilities that they have,” meteorologist Tom Niziol said on The Weather Channel. “If you don’t have anywhere to go, don’t. Please don’t.”
Along the Kansas-Nebraska state line, up to a foot and a half of snow was expected.
The University of Kansas closed for the day, as did schools in Wichita and Oklahoma City.
The storm is vast: Earlier this week, it closed roads and stranded cars in California and dusted cactus tops in Southwest. At a delayed tournament in Arizona, pro golfers threw snowballs at each other and retreated to the clubhouse for hot chocolate.
The same weather system could dump snow on New England for the third weekend in a row, and a stretch of Georgia and the Florida Panhandle could be doused by 7 inches of rain.
The storm was blamed for at least one death. An 18-year-old was killed Wednesday when his pickup skidded out of control in the slush on an Oklahoma state highway, crossed into oncoming traffic and was hit by a truck.
In Arkansas, a school bus taking kids home in the afternoon slid off a steep, snowy country road and crashed, leaving the driver and three students with minor injuries, Pope County Sheriff Aaron Duval told The Associated Press.
The storm was expected to pummel the Plains with heavy snow and ice for the rest of Thursday and move toward Chicago and Minneapolis on Friday.
A wintry mix of snow and ice was likely to come in the eastern side of the Appalachian Mountains, including parts of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, by Friday morning, The Weather Channel reported.