Winter storm pummels north-central US with snow, spawns tornadoes in South

Forecasters warned that some places could see temperatures drop to as low as minus 29 deg C. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - A major winter storm pounded the heart of the United States on Tuesday, bringing heavy snow and freezing rain to the Northern Plains and spawning thunderstorms and destructive tornadoes in the South.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued tornado warnings across parts of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, and said that spotters had confirmed twisters near Grapevine, Texas, and west of Shreveport, Louisiana.

The tornado that touched down near Grapevine damaged several buildings and caused traffic accidents in Wise, Parker and Jack counties, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

“You are in a life-threatening situation. Flying debris may be deadly to those caught without shelter. Mobile homes will be destroyed. Considerable damage to homes, businesses and vehicles is likely, and complete destruction is possible,” said the NWS in a warning issued at 3.45pm central time on Tuesday.

The storm was blamed for the cancellation of more than 70 flights and delay of nearly 800 others as at Tuesday afternoon, reported on its Misery Map.

“This storm system will continue to produce numerous, widespread and impactful weather hazards from the Rockies to the East Coast,” said the NWS in its forecast.

Blizzard-like conditions prompted school districts to cancel classes across the Dakotas, Colorado and Nebraska. Some spots in the four-state area are expecting 61cm of snow and winds of 97kmh throughout the next two days, the NWS said.

Blowing snow and ice accumulation forced the closure of many highways and roadways, transportation officials said, urging residents to stay home.

“Be aware of rapidly changing conditions. Reduce speeds and drive according to the conditions,” said the North Dakota Department of Transportation on Twitter.

Forecasters warned that temperatures could drop to as low as minus 29 deg C across the region, a level that causes frostbite on exposed skin within 30 minutes.

The wintry mix of precipitation will spread from the Upper Great Lakes next Tuesday into the North-east late on Wednesday, bringing with it the possibility of as much as 20cm of snow to some spots.

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