DALLAS (AP) — A huge storm that swept across the country Tuesday spawned several tornadoes that destroyed buildings and injured a handful of people in Oklahoma and Texas, left two people missing in Louisiana and sent much of the central United States into Prepare for blizzard-like conditions. .
Sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, volunteers and dog teams searched through the rubble after a tornado touched down about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Shreveport, Louisiana, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office said. Two people were missing, one was injured and several buildings were destroyed, said Sgt. Casey Jones said.
“I think we are focused on finding people. There is no rain. The weather is gone,” she said a few hours after the tornado ripped through Four Forts.
“I hope they’re with the family somewhere,” Jones said. There were no immediate reports of deaths.
Far to the northwest, an area extending from Montana westward to Nebraska and Colorado It was under blizzard warnings, and the National Weather Service said up to 2 feet of snow was possible in some areas of western South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska. Ice and sleet were expected on the eastern Great Plains.
Forecasters expect the storm system to hobble the upper Midwest with ice, rain and snow for days, as well as move into the northeast and central Appalachians. Residents from West Virginia to Vermont were told to watch for a possible significant mix of snow, ice and sleet, and the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch Wednesday night through Friday afternoon, depending on the time of the storm.
The severe weather threat also continues through Wednesday for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
In the South, a series of thunderstorms brought tornadoes, damaging winds, hail and heavy rain to North Texas and Oklahoma in the early morning hours, National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Bradshaw said. Authorities on Tuesday reported dozens of damaged homes and businesses and several people injured in suburban and northern counties of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The weather service examined about a dozen different areas in North Texas to determine if the damage Tuesday was caused by high winds or tornadoes.
A tornado warning prompted Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to issue a “shelter-in-place” order Tuesday morning, asking passengers to move away from windows, the airport announced via Twitter.
More than 1,000 flights to and from area airports have been delayed and more than 100 cancelled, according to the FlightAware tracking service.
In suburban Fort Worth, about 20 local homes and businesses were damaged, according to the North Richland Hills Police Department.
In nearby Grapevine, police spokeswoman Amanda McNew reported five confirmed injuries.
“The main thing is that we have everyone in a safe place,” McNew said shortly after noon. “We are beginning the process of going around the city to look at the damage to property, to businesses, to homes, and then to the roads.”
A potential tornado blew the roof off the city’s service center, a municipal facility, leaving pieces of the roof dangling from power lines, said Trent Kelley, deputy director of Grapevine Parks and Recreation. Tuesday was also trash day, so trash was picked up and scattered everywhere by the storm, he said.
Photos submitted by the city showed downed power lines on rain-soaked streets, as well as downed trees, damaged buildings and a semi-truck that appeared to have been dumped in a parking lot.
Meanwhile, a tornado damaged the town of Wayne in Oklahoma just after 5 a.m. Tuesday. There was widespread damage, but no deaths or injuries, McClain County Sheriff’s Capt. Bryan Murrell said.
“We have multiple family structures with significant damage … barns, downed power lines,” Murrell said. The city is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) south of Oklahoma City.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Doug Speheger said wind speeds reached 111-135 mph and the tornado was rated EF-2. It was probably on the ground for about two to four minutes, according to the weather service.
In parts of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, the National Weather Service warned that up to about half an inch (2.5 centimeters) of ice could form and wind gusts could reach 45 mph (72 kph). Power outages, damaged trees, falling branches, and dangerous travel conditions threatened the region.
All of western Nebraska was under a blizzard warning Tuesday through Thursday, and the National Weather Service said up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow was expected in the northwest. Winds of more than 50 mph (80 kph) will sometimes make it impossible to see outdoors, authorities said.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation closed portions of Interstate 80 and Interstate 76 as heavy snowfall and high winds made travel dangerous. The Nebraska State Patrol, which was called to deal with several wrecks and bent semi-trucks overnight, urged people to stay off the roads.
“Basically, no one is traveling right now,” said Justin McCallum, manager of the Flying J truck stop in Ogallala, Nebraska.
In Colorado, all roads in the northeast quadrant of the state were closed. Severe weather in the ranching country could also threaten livestock. Extreme winds can push cattle through fences as they follow the direction of the gale, said Jim Santomaso, northeast representative for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
“If this continues,” Santomaso said, “cattle could be driven for miles.”
In western South Dakota, a 260-mile (418-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 90 was closed Tuesday morning due to “freezing rain, heavy snow and high winds,” the state Department of Transportation said. Interstate 29 was also expected to close and back roads will likely become “impassable,” the department said.
Xcel Energy, one of the largest electricity providers in the region, had increased staff in anticipation of power outages.
A blizzard warning has been issued for North Shore Minnesota as some areas expect up to 24 inches of snow and wind gusts up to 40 mph. And in the southern part of the state, winds gusting up to 50 mph (80 kph) reduced visibility.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Melissa Dye in the Twin Cities said this is a “long duration event” with snow, ice and rain through Friday night. Minnesota expected a lull on Wednesday, followed by a second round of snow.
Wet roads are just as dangerous when temperatures hover around freezing, Dye said.
Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press writers Ken Miller in Oklahoma City; Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; Sam Metz in Salt Lake City; Trisha Ahmed in Minneapolis; Jesse Bedayn in Denver; Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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