Severe storm clobbers United States with winds, snow and hail

Nancy McIntosh clears her driveway of deep snow in Dayton, Maryland, Feb 14, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
Nancy McIntosh clears her driveway of deep snow in Dayton, Maryland, Feb 14, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
The New York skyline and the One World Trade Center are seen in the distance as people make their commute after a night of snow from Exchange Place in New Jersey to New York City, Feb 14, 2014. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
Drivers stand outside of their cars in the east bound lanes in this view looking west of Interstate 276, the Pennsylvania Turnpike, as emergency vehicles pass following a multi-car and truck accident near the Bensalem interchange. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
A snow covered car sits along a road on Feb 18, 2014, in Brooklyn borough of New York City. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
Two girls make a snowman in Central Park on Feb 18, 2014, in New York City. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
The Washington Monument fades into blowing snow on the National Mall, Jan 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

MILWAUKEE (REUTERS) - A strong storm system packing damaging winds, dense fog, and heavy snow pelted the central part of the United States on Thursday, causing massive traffic jams and loss of power, meteorologists said.

At least a dozen tornadoes were reported in central Illinois, where strong winds damaged and destroyed numerous buildings and toppled trees and power lines, according to the weather service.

"An abundance of moisture and instability along the boundary will make severe weather and heavy downpours a concern," the weather service said.

The same front on Friday is expected to barrel east producing strong thunderstorms, freezing rain and snow storms, the weather service predicted.

Dense fog caused a roughly 20-vehicle crash during rush hour on the northbound Interstate 57 in Will County, Illinois, briefly closing the highway, state police said. Multiple injuries were reported, but none are believed to be life threatening.

The Nashville area was hit hard on Thursday evening with strong winds that brought down trees and power lines, media reported. A weather spotter told WSMV, an NBC affiliate, that winds reached 153 kph in Sumner County, northeast of Nashville.

Wind gusts of up to 129 kph tore off the roofs of houses and barns, destroyed outbuildings and brought down power lines and trees that blocked roadways throughout the central US, the National Weather Service said.

Golf ball-sized hail pelted Hornersville, a small community in southeast Missouri, while quarter-sized hail fell in parts of Indiana, Mississippi and Kentucky.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard and winter storm warnings for parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa through Friday morning.

The service predicted near-zero visibility as winds whipped up to 72 kph and snow accumulation up to 30cm in parts of the region. The weather caused schools throughout the region to close or delay the start of classes on Friday.

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