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Spring snowstorm moves east to Ohio Valley

The spring snowstorm that buried parts of Nebraska  swept through the Ohio Valley on Tuesday, complicating travel for voters in Illinois’ primary election.
NICK ANDERSON, ZACH  WILLIAMS
Nick Anderson, 16, and Zach Williams, 15, jump a small ramp made of snow on Tuesday in Terre Haute, Ind. The two were enjoying the weather after classes were canceled.Joseph C. Garza / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The spring snow storm that buried parts of Nebraska under more than 2 feet of snow swept through the Ohio Valley on Tuesday, shutting down schools and making travel tough for voters headed for the polls for the Illinois’ primary election.

As much as 2 inches of snow an hour fell in some areas of Illinois and Indiana, and wind gusted to 40 mph, weather officials said.

“Our weather’s terrible. The highways are terrible. It’s not the highway department’s fault, they just can’t keep up with it,” said Morgan County, Ill., Sheriff’s Deputy Trevor Lahey. He answered more than 50 calls Tuesday morning about cars in ditches west of Springfield.

Blizzard shuts highways
In Colorado, Interstate 70 reopened early Tuesday after its eastbound lanes between Denver and the Kansas line were shut down for nearly 18 hours because of heavy snow. Interstate 80 also reopened Tuesday across Nebraska.

The storm dumped as much as 28 inches of snow on central Nebraska on Monday, 20 inches in parts of South Dakota and half a foot in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Wind piled the snow into drifts 7 feet high in parts of South Dakota and Nebraska. Farther south, heavy rain caused flooding in the Dallas area.

More than 7 inches of snow fell on parts of western Indiana, and wind gusting to 25 mph created whiteout conditions before the snow diminished at midday Tuesday. Snowfall in parts of Illinois topped 10 inches.

Erratic weather trend expected
Indiana state climatologist Dev Niyogi said the erratic weather will likely continue, in part because of the impact of La Nina, the mild cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean that often coincides with stronger and more frequent hurricanes, a wetter Pacific Northwest and a drier South.

“I think the important feature of the upcoming season is not just going to be a really cold or really warm season ahead, but the swings we are going have,” he said. “Some days will really feel like winter again and some days we’ll start thinking that maybe that summer is already here.”

Schools also remained closed for a second day Tuesday in parts of the Plains states. The Nebraska Legislature canceled its Tuesday meeting, and the South Dakota Legislature rescheduled Monday’s meetings.

A maintenance worker spreads salt on the walkways for commuters arriving by bus in downtown Denver Monday, March 20, 2006, as a storm packing high winds, sub-freezing temperatures and snow enveloped Colorado's Front Range communities. Forecasters predict that the storm, which hit on the first official day of Spring, will move on to the eastern plains of Colorado before targeting Kansas and Nebraska. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)David Zalubowski / AP

At least five deaths were blamed on the storm. The deaths included a person killed Sunday in a traffic accident on a slush-covered road in Colorado, and a woman reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who was found dead Monday after she wandered away from her home.

In Nebraska, two motorists died on an icy highway on Sunday.

Also Monday, at least two tornadoes touched down in rural Oklahoma as a wave of thunderstorms moved across the state.

Rain drenches the South
Texas also saw severe weather. Up to 8 inches of rain was reported in northern Texas over the weekend and into Monday, causing flooding around the Dallas area. Waters subsided Monday, and the storms may have eased chronic drought.

“It is definitely going to help with the drought, but it is not going to reverse it,” said weather service meteorologist Stacie Hanes.

In Dallas, the body of a woman was recovered from a creek. Officials believe high water swept her car off a road Sunday night.