Snowfall blankets Texas, Oklahoma; Deep South to see storms
By CEDAR ATTANASIO
EL PASO, Texas (AP) - A powerful winter storm in the central United States dropped snow as far south as El Paso, Texas, on Wednesday while areas of the Deep South were at risk of severe weather including tornadoes and torrential rains, forecasters said.
Winter storm warnings or advisories were in effect from northeastern Oklahoma to the Great North Woods of Maine Wednesday evening, the National Weather Service said. Meanwhile, the Storm Prediction Center said storms that could generate hail, 60 mph (95 kph) winds and twisters were possible across much of Mississippi and Alabama. The threat extended into border regions of Tennessee, and forecasters said bad weather could continue after dark.
Mail carrier Pablo Salinas of San Elizario said the weather and traffic accidents nearly doubled his drive to work from south of El Paso on Wednesday.
“There were four accidents coming in. They closed I-10. I was close to an hour late,” Salinas said.
By noon, Salinas said about 4 inches (10 centimeters) of snow had melted, with only a bit of snow dusting the palm trees lining the street and the red rock hills above.
El Paso International Airport recorded 2 inches (5 centimeters) of snow Wednesday, according to National Weather Service meteorologist David Hefner, who said the city averages 6.9 inches (17.5 centimeters) of snow per season.
Hefner said the snow tends to melt quickly.
“We can get 4-5 inches overnight and it's generally gone by the next afternoon,” Hefner said.
The weather service forecast sunny skies and a high of about 50 degrees (10 Celsius) for El Paso on Thursday.
However, freezing temperatures were expected to preserve Wednesday's snow accumulations from the Red River Valley of Texas through Oklahoma, prompting school systems to remain closed Thursday in those areas.
The winter storm caused a multi-vehicle pileup Wednesday on an Interstate 70 bridge in central Missouri but mostly missed a parade to celebrate the Kansas City Chiefs' Super Bowl win.
The National Weather Service initially predicted 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 centimeters) of snowfall along the parade route. But National Weather Service meteorologist Jimmy Barham said the storm shifted slightly, sparing fans from all but a few flurries.
Snowfall was heavier to the east, where several tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles collided around noon on a bridge that spans the Missouri River near Rocheport, shutting down westbound traffic on the interstate. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott White said at least one person was taken from the scene in an ambulance.
The Missouri Department of Transportation warned drivers against traveling in the storm amid worsening road conditions.
As the storm hit, University of Missouri officials announced that no classes would be held after 1 p.m. and Jefferson City closed its city offices at 10 a.m.
In Oklahoma, the state House and Senate both closed due to snowy weather, and the annual anti-abortion Rose Day rally that typically draws hundreds to the state Capitol was postponed.
Highway Patrol troopers worked more than two dozen accidents in the Oklahoma City area early Wednesday, including some with injuries, after several inches of snow fell overnight, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sarah Stewart.
“The biggest impact has been snarled traffic from jack-knifed semis,” Stewart said.
In Arkansas, forecasters said up to a quarter-inch of ice and 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 centimeters) of snow were possible in the northwest part of the state. The remainder of the state was expected to get heavy rain on Wednesday.
Snow also was expected to extend into Illinois, Michigan and other parts of the Midwest on Wednesday and Thursday before reaching the Northeast by Friday, the weather service said.
Associated Press reporters Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri; Terry Wallace in Dallas and Sean Murphy and Ken Miller in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
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