A powerful winter storm continued to hit much of the country Tuesday, with heavy snow spreading from the Plains to the Great Lakes and severe thunderstorms possible in the South, forecasters warned.
The National Weather Service said the storm would “continue to bring a variety of hazards” to the affected areas. Winds have been gusting up to hurricane strength, with 84 mph recorded at El Paso, Texas.
The storm was blamed for at least two deaths on Monday: Heavy snow caused a roof of a house in Woodward, Okla., to collapse, killing one person inside, and in northwest Kansas, a 21-year-old man was killed when his SUV overturned on an icy patch of Interstate 70. A third death was reported on Tuesday, after a female passenger died in a pickup truck accident on an icy strip of road overnight. Three others were injured in the accident.
“We have roofs collapsing all over town,” Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill, Jr., told Reuters. “We really have a mess on our hands.”
The storm brought the February total in Wichita, Kansas, to 21 inches, breaking a 100-year-old record for the month, NBC station KSN reported. A KSN reporter was covering the storm when a building collapsed under the weight of snow.
Authorities pleaded with people to stay off the roads because of what Weather Channel meteorologist Greg Postel described as a “really nasty blizzard.”
The NWS said that heavy snow would spread from the Plains to the Great Lakes, with “blizzard conditions possible through early Tuesday.”
“On the south side of the storm system, severe thunderstorms and heavy rainfall are possible across portions of the Gulf Coast and Southeast,” it added.
Severe thunderstorms and the threat of heavy rainfall remained possible over sections of the southeastern states and the Gulf Coast on Tuesday, the NWS said, as the south side of the storm system moved through the area.
A waterspout came ashore in Tampa, Fla., damaging a Westin hotel, WTSP reported. Winds of 90 mph were reported in Cedar Key, and trees and power lines were down.
Charleston, S.C., broke its record for rain for the month with 10.46 inches -- and more was falling.
In a storm summary message posted at 4 a.m. ET, the weather service said blizzard warnings were in effect for parts of central northern Oklahoma with storm watches and warnings in effect for some places from central Oklahoma into the southern Great Lakes.
In Chicago, the wintry mix could affect voter turnout in the special primary to replace former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., in the Illinois 2nd District. As much as five inches of slushy snow was expectedin the city’s southern suburbs, and a storm watch has been issued for the northern part of the state.
Storm watches and warnings were also in effect for portions of the Appalachians, mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, while ice storm warnings and freezing rain advisories were in effect for parts of West Virginia.
The NWS warned of high winds in the Appalachians in Tennessee, North Carolina and southern Virginia.
In Texas, residents discovered that even their snowdrifts are bigger as they began to dig out from a whopping 19 inches of snow in Amarillo that stranded as many as 100 motorists in the Panhandle and caused Gov. Rick Perry called out military forces.
Farther south, there were flood and flash-flood warnings and watches for “much of the Gulf Coast and southeast U.S. from Louisiana to Georgia.”
Flood watches were also in effect for parts of the mid-Atlantic Region, the NWS notice added, as rain was expected throughout the greater Washington, D.C., area on Tuesday. The mix of rain and wind was expected to begin by noon, picking up through the later part of the day. Meteorologists warned people should expect more rain than sleet as temperatures were likely to remain above freezing. The rain should move out of the area by Wednesday morning, and might yield to sunny skies later in the afternoon.
Commuters in New York City and the tri-state area should also expect to see a late-afternoon cocktail of rain, sleet, and snow. The worst of the storm was likely to hit overnight, though morning commuters might also catch the tail of the storm on Wednesday, forecasters said. As much as six inches of snow could accumulate at higher elevations inland.