A massive winter storm roaring across the West dumped up to 4 feet of snow in parts of Nevada and Idaho, fueled blizzard warnings in six other states and spawned tornadoes in the South.
More than 25 million Americans were under dangerous weather watches and warnings Tuesday. The storm’s march across the nation could last through the weekend, when parts of the northeast could be blasted with more than a foot of snow, forecasters warned.
“This is a ‘we are not kidding’ kind of storm,” the South Dakota Department of Transportation tweeted as it warned of road closures across much of the state. “BLIZZARD and ICE STORM WARNINGS have been issued. Rain/freezing rain and heavy snow coupled with high winds will impact travel.”
Parts of Nebraska, Colorado, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Kansas were facing blizzard conditions – snow with winds of at least 35 mph, reducing visibilities to a quarter of a mile or less – and several other states faced winter storm and ice storm warnings , the National Weather Service said.
In Colorado, the weather service office in Boulder said state transportation department cameras showed “deteriorating conditions across the plains” Tuesday. The storm was forecast to rage through Wednesday, and the weather service said most roads in northeastern Colorado were closed. Conditions were expected to worsen amid heavy snow and wind gusts that could reach 60 mph.
Tornadoes touch down in Texas, Oklahoma
Tornado sirens blared across much of North Texas as a line of storms tore through the Dallas area. Social media posts depicted damage in Texas and Oklahoma. The weather service office in Fort Worth confirmed a tornado touched down Tuesday morning in River Oaks, 40 miles west of Dallas.
“Line continues to move east producing isolated tornadoes, damaging winds, and hail up to quarter size,” the Fort Worth office tweeted.
Emergency management officials in Dallas warned wind gusts could reach 70 mph and that hail was possible. Dallas-Fort Worth Airport briefly activated a “shelter in place” program.
“We ask that you move away from windows & exteriors,” airport authorities said in a tweet. “Shelter in enclosed spaces if you are at the airport. Please do not travel to the airport until the tornado warning is deactivated.”
Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District also issued a shelter-in-place order. It was later dropped but power was out at three schools.
Earlier Tuesday, at least one tornado touched down in south central Oklahoma. Multiple homes were damaged in Wayne, 40 miles south of Oklahoma City, where storm sirens are tested every Friday when the weather is sunny, according to the town’s website.
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Ice storm could darken parts of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota
Parts of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota could see a half-inch of ice and winds up to 45 mph, the weather service said. Power outages, tree damage, falling branches and hazardous travel conditions threatened the region, and the impact could remain into the weekend.
“Gusty winds could blow around unsecured objects,” the weather service in Iowa warned. “Be sure to secure outdoor holiday decorations. Tree limbs could be blown down and a few power outages may result.”
“A storm will develop near southeastern Virginia on Thursday, track just off the New Jersey coast on Friday and finally spin near southeastern New England on Saturday,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert said. She forecast a widespread snowfall for a large part of the region.
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Tornado conditions target Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi
In addition to Oklahoma and Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi could draw “severe hail, winds, and tornadoes, including the potential for a couple strong tornadoes,” the weather service said. AccuWeather warned that the line of storms will gain intensity and become more widespread as it slides east. Tuesday’s severe weather could stretch into major population centers beyond Dallas, including Houston, Little Rock, Arkansas; and New Orleans, AccuWeather said.
Even Alaska wasn’t safe – a series of record-breaking storms forced closure of Anchorage schools for a week, unprecedented in a city accustomed to dealing with wintry conditions.
“Barring any unforeseen weather conditions in the next 12 hours, it’s back-to-school tomorrow as best we can given these unprecedented back-to-back snow storms,” the district said in a Facebook post Monday. “It’s going to take patience and planning as a community to make it happen.”