US digs out from one winter storm as another looms

CHICAGO (AFP) - The central United States (US) was digging out from a massive winter storm on day while East Coast residents were preparing for a whopper set to strike over the weekend.

The weakened storm was nonetheless still packing a punch, snarling traffic and cancelling hundreds of flights as it hovered over the Great Lakes region.

A United Airlines plane slid off a runway in Cleveland on Friday morning, but officials said nobody was hurt.

The National Weather Service warned that parts of New England could get over 30cm of snow on Saturday and Sunday, adding to the huge drifts caused by two other storms that struck in the past couple weeks.

The southern end of that system is expected to bring major thunderstorms and possible flooding in Florida.

Meanwhile, ski resorts in the northern Rockies and Cascades were looking forward to a third system expected to dump 30 to 120cm in the mountains.

The first storm began on Wednesday, hindering travel and dumping snow, sleet and freezing rain in 18 states from South Dakota to Pennsylvania in the north and all the way down to Texas to Arkansas in the south.

Kansas was the hardest hit, with nearly 60cm in some areas, making roads impassable and shuttering schools, businesses and government offices.

The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency after the midwestern state received a dangerous mix of more than 30cm of snow in some areas along with freezing rain in others.

Hundreds of accidents were reported from Colorado to Arkansas as blinding snow and freezing rain created treacherous conditions. Only two fatalities were reported - in Nebraska and Oklahoma - on Wednesday.

One person was killed when high winds knocked down trees and damaged homes in east Texas Thursday, the National Weather Service said in a storm report.

Plenty of residents took advantage of the day off work to enjoy the snow, including Karen Blue, who sent a video of her English bulldog barreling down a slope on a bright red sled in Kansas City, Missouri to CNN.

"He is obsessed with his sled," she told the network.