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story.lead_photo.caption Residents in Meridian, Miss., survey the damage Saturday after a storm system moved through, downing power lines and felling trees.

MINNEAPOLIS -- A storm system stretching from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes buffeted the central U.S. with heavy winds, rain, hail and snow, forcing flight cancellations, creating treacherous road conditions and killing at least three people, including a sleeping 2-year-old Louisiana girl.

In the upper Midwest, the early spring storm brought snow to a region pining for sunshine and warmth. About 400 flights were canceled at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which grounded all flights Saturday afternoon as heavy snow made it difficult to keep runways clear and planes de-iced, while blizzard conditions forced the airport in South Dakota's biggest city, Sioux Falls, to remain closed for a second-straight day.

Authorities closed several highways in southwestern Minnesota, where no travel was advised, and driving conditions were difficult across the southern half of the state. The National Weather Service predicted that a large swath of southern Minnesota, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, could get up to 20 inches of snow by the time the storm blows through today.

"It's a cool experience for me, the best Minneapolis experience," said Niko Heiligman, of Aachen, Germany, who braved the snow to take a walk along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis. "I'm only here for the weekend, so I guess that's how it goes. There's snow and it's cold. So it's good."

The storm is expected to persist through today in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan before moving into New York state and New England.

A band of 6 to 18 inches of snow had fallen by Saturday morning across central and northeastern Wisconsin, with another round on the way. A blizzard warning was issued for the northern half of Wisconsin, which is expected to get another 14 inches by this evening. Winds of up to 55 mph caused blowing and drifting snow, along with ice shoves in Green Bay.

In Chicago, Lake Michigan waves were expected to reach as high as 18 feet, prompting a flood warning until today along the lakefront.

Snow and wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph whipped through parts of South Dakota for a second-straight day Saturday, causing blizzard conditions that made travel all but impossible. Interstate 90 was closed across the eastern half of South Dakota, from Vivian to Sioux Falls, while Interstate 29 was closed from Sioux Falls north to Summit.

The storm knocked out power to thousands of customers in Michigan, which was expected to get more snow and ice throughout the weekend. Western Michigan and the state's Upper Peninsula were getting wind gusts of 50 mph.

One of the storm-related deaths occurred Friday on snow-covered Interstate 80 near Chappell in western Nebraska, where the State Patrol said an Idaho truck driver lost control of his semitrailer and slammed into a semi that had become stranded. Rollo Ward, 61, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, died at the scene.

Another death happened early Saturday in northwestern Louisiana when a storm toppled a tree onto a mobile home in Haughton, killing a sleeping 2-year-old girl inside. Lt. Bill Davis of the Bossier Parish sheriff's office said four adults and a 15-month-old child were also in the recreational vehicle but weren't hurt.

A woman died in a spinout on a slippery highway in central Wisconsin on Saturday morning. The Columbia County sheriff's office said the 30-year-old woman from Poynette, Wis., was driving a minivan that began to spin and crossed the centerline of Highway 16 near Lewiston, where it was struck by an oncoming SUV. Three passengers in the minivan and the SUV driver were hospitalized with injuries. The road was slush-covered, and light, freezing rain was falling.

In Arkansas, a tornado ripped through the tiny Ozark Mountain town of Mountainburg on Friday afternoon, injuring at least four people and causing widespread damage. Video showed uprooted trees, overturned cars, damaged buildings and downed power lines. In Conway, powerful winds damaged several buildings at the University of Central Arkansas on Friday, including the roof of a dormitory that was evacuated. No injuries were reported.

The storm made its mark in Texas, too, where hail stones the size of hen eggs fell on areas south of Dallas and Fort Worth, said weather service meteorologist Patricia Sanchez. In Austin, high winds and rain downed tree limbs and lightning struck a couple of houses, but there was no major damage reported in the city, according to fire officials.

Information for this article was contributed by Chevel Johnson, Jamie Stengle, Margery Beck, Don Babwin and Tom Davies of The Associated Press.

Photo by AP/The Post-Crescent/DAN POWERS
Dave and Cheryl Kolosso clear snow Saturday in Appleton, Wis., after a storm system that stretched from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes wreaked havoc Friday and this weekend. The system produced snow in the Upper Midwest and hail, strong winds and tornadoes farther south. In Arkansas, tornado damage was reported in two counties.

A Section on 04/15/2018

Print Headline: Spring storm blankets Midwest in snow

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