Spring storm lashes central US with snow and threatens South with severe weather

Pedestrians crosses the street as snow partially covers the roads, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Pedestrians crosses the street as snow partially covers the roads, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Snow, rain and gusting winds lashed a large swath of the Central U.S. on Monday, dashing spring hopes, as the South braced for thunderstorms and possible tornadoes and as the risk of wildfires in southern Texas reached critical levels.

The storm hit with parts of the country still in recovery mode from their own severe weather, particularly in the Northeast. Tens of thousands of people still lacked power in Maine, where a storm coated parts of the state in thick ice.

The new storm was expected to bring strong winds, sleet, freezing rain and snow to a broad swath from the Dakotas to the Gulf Coast through Tuesday.

“A lot of people get excited because they think the spring is coming in and the winter’s over, but since I’ve been little, every time there’s that one last snowstorm that we always get, and here it is,” said Jarvis Smith, of Golden Valley, Minnesota, as he shoveled snow.

Warnings or advisories for blizzard or winter storm conditions covered much of Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin, upper Michigan, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.

In northern parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, snow could fall as fast as 2 inches (5 centimeters) per hour, the National Weather Service said.

“Blowing and falling snow will significantly reduce visibility, and blizzard conditions will persist into Tuesday across portions of the Plains and northern Minnesota,” the weather service said in an update at 4 p.m. Monday. “Travel may be very difficult or impossible at times. Power outages and tree damage are possible in some areas due to heavy snow, icing, and strong winds. Also, plan on slippery roads.”

Wind warnings or advisories stretched from Iowa to Appalachia and down to the Gulf Coast. Severe thunderstorms with a threat for tornadoes and other damaging winds were possible in east Texas and the Lower Mississippi Valley. Strong storms, some producing tornado warnings, had already made their way through parts of Oklahoma and Texas on Sunday night.

The storm was largely expected to spare the Twin Cities area after socking it Sunday with heavy snow. The state patrol reported about 400 crashes since Sunday that injured over 20 people and killed at least two.

Some schools in Minnesota closed. Almost three dozen flights were canceled at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and more than 100 were delayed.

In South Dakota, traffic moved slowly overnight along a section of Interstate 29 where trucks struggled to make it up a slick hill. Conditions remained slippery in the eastern third of the state, but no fatal accidents were reported.

“I think they (drivers) are accustomed to it,” said Brad Reiners, of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, crediting warnings ahead of the blast. “They took heed pretty well.”

Road conditions were treacherous throughout central Nebraska, where up to 8 inches (20.32 centimeters) of snow was expected through Tuesday. Several inches of snow had already fallen by midday Monday. A long stretch of Interstate 80 was closed in both directions.

Weather officials in south Texas warned of gusty, dry conditions that could rapidly spread fires.

Parts of the Northeast got slammed over the weekend, too. Vermont, New Hampshire and most of Maine got buried in snow that measured more than 2 feet (0.6 meters) in some areas, toppling trees and causing car crashes. Tens of thousands of people from Maine to New York remained without power early Monday.

Repair crews in Maine had succeeded in cutting outages from 200,000 over the weekend to less than 50,000 by late Monday afternoon.

Nearly three-quarters of an inch of ice was recorded at Portland’s airport, said Justin Arnott, of the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine. But the weather outlook was good for utility workers, with no bitter cold in the forecast and no fast melt that could threaten flooding.

Areas farther inland got fluffy snow coveted by skiers. Bryant Pond, Maine, recorded 25 inches (63.50 centimeters), and Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire, had just shy of 30 inches (76.20 centimeters).

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Salter reported from St. Louis and Parry from Atlantic City, New Jersey. Contributing to this report were Associated Press journalists Mark Vancleave in Golden Valley, Minnesota; David Sharp in Portland, Maine; Phil Marcelo in East Meadow, New York; Julie Walker in New York City; Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire; Walter Berry in Phoenix; and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles.

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