HOUSTON -- Severe storms sweeping across southern portions of the U.S. and up into the Midwest were blamed Saturday in the deaths of at least 11 people, including two emergency-services workers, as high winds, tornadoes and unrelenting rain battered large areas of the country.
Storm-related fatalities were reported in Texas from icy weather, in Alabama from a tornado and in Louisiana, where winds were so strong that a trailer home was lifted off its foundation and carried several hundred feet. A man drowned in Oklahoma, and the storms even touched the Midwest with at least one death on an icy highway in Iowa. Hundreds of thousands of people were left without power from Texas to Ohio, parts of highways were closed in Oklahoma and Arkansas because of flooding and hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago's international airports.
"Pick your threat; everything is going on," said Bob Oravec, a senior branch forecaster with the U.S. Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md. "You would think there would be a lot of impacts and there are."
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a state of emergency to assist crews working to restore power around the state.
"This is one of the stronger systems that we've seen in recent years," said Kurt Van Speybroeck, an emergency response specialist at the National Weather Service. On Saturday afternoon, the strongest part of the storm was moving over Alabama and Tennessee and headed east toward Georgia at about 40 mph. It likely will roll over the Carolinas today and be off the coast by this afternoon at the latest, Speybroeck said.
Two emergency-services workers were killed and another was critically injured in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday morning after they were hit by a vehicle while at the scene of a traffic accident in icy conditions, officials said.
The workers were at the scene of two accidents on Interstate 27 around 8:30 a.m. in Lubbock when a southbound vehicle crossed into the median and hit two firefighters and one police officer.
Police officer Nicholas Reyna, 27, who had been with the department for one year, died at the scene. Firefighter Lt. David Hill, 39, was taken to a hospital where he later died. Firefighter Matthew Dawson, 30, was hospitalized in critical condition.
Lubbock Police Chief Floyd Mitchell called it an "extremely tragic day" for the city.
Mitchell said that when road conditions get bad, drivers need to "slow down. They need to understand the road conditions are dangerous. We have people out there trying to protect them."
"If people would respect road conditions, things like this wouldn't have to happen," said Fire Chief Shaun Fogerson.
Another person died Friday night in Texas when a car flipped into a creek in Dallas as severe thunderstorms passed through. Lightning from Friday's stormy weather was suspected of causing fires that burned two houses but caused no injuries in the Texas cities of Burleson and Mansfield.
A man drowned near Kiowa, Okla., after he was swept away in floodwaters, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said Saturday. Randall Hyatt, 58, of Wardville, was overwhelmed by rushing water while getting out of his stalled truck.
The Iowa State Patrol said roads were caked with ice early Saturday when a semitrailer on Interstate 80 east of Iowa City overturned, killing a passenger in the truck.
In Alabama, three people were confirmed killed near Carrollton in Pickens County, the National Weather Service in Birmingham said on Twitter. The Alabama Emergency Management Agency said the deaths were caused by an "embedded tornado within a long line of intense thunderstorms."
Earlier Saturday, in northwestern Louisiana, firefighters found the bodies of Jerry W. Franks, 79, and Mary Sue Franks, 65, near their demolished trailer in Benton, the Bossier Parish sheriff's office said via Facebook. The winds were so strong that the home of the couple, who were the in-laws of a parish deputy, was moved 200 feet from its foundation.
The couple's double-wide trailer was found about 200 feet away from its normal location, said Lt. Bill Davis, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. It likely had been picked up by the tornado and tossed into the backyard. The couple's three dogs were missing.
"This thing happened at 2 in the morning," Davis said. "It was just bad timing."
The National Weather Service in Shreveport said a tornado with winds of around 135 mph had touched down in Bossier Parish
Also in Louisiana, Raymond Holden, 75, was killed in his bed when a tree fell on his home in Oil City, crushing him, according to the Caddo Parish coroner's office.
A winter storm that moved into Missouri on Friday left icy and snow-covered roads in the west while dropping a deluge of rain in the east, leading to flooding in basements and low-lying areas around St. Louis.
Several homes and some barns and outbuildings were damaged Friday in the southwestern town of Fair Play, where officials are looking into whether a tornado caused the damage. No injuries were reported.
Around Kansas City, a quarter-inch of ice covered trees, roads and other surfaces as temperatures plummeted overnight, leaving authorities scrambling to handle dozens of calls about crashes and stranded motorists.
In central Missouri, motorists were warned Saturday of flooded and ice-covered roads. Columbia Regional Airport reported several canceled flights.
The National Weather Service said some parts of St. Louis had 4 inches of rain since late Thursday, with slightly more falling in parts of Jefferson and St. Clair counties. That led to some flooded streets in low-lying areas, but no reports of significant flash flooding. Still, the weather service issued a flood warning for areas in and around St. Louis until about noon today.Gallery: Storm damage around South
Rain mixed with snow in the St. Louis area Saturday afternoon, and snow was to continue overnight into today, with less than an inch of accumulation expected.
About 91,000 customers were without power in Alabama on Saturday evening, according to Alabama Power. PowerOutage.us said Georgia had about 105,000 blackouts Saturday evening, with tens of thousands of outages reported in Mississippi and Louisiana. Power losses were reported from Texas to Michigan.
In Tennessee, Memphis Light, Gas and Water said about 23,000 customers were without power Saturday morning. Damage was widespread throughout Shelby County, Tennessee's most populous county that includes Memphis. Trees were downed, as well as power poles, some of which will need to be replaced, according to the utility.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation reported Saturday morning that portions of several highways in the southeastern part of the state were closed by flooding. The Arkansas Department of Transportation reported that portions of several state highways, particularly in the southeast, were closed because of downed trees and power lines and flooding.
On Alabama's Gulf Coast, the National Weather Service warned of high winds and flooding and the potential for 10-foot-high waves on beaches, where northern visitors escaping the cold are a common sight during the winter.
Many streams were already at or near flood levels because of earlier storms, and heavy rains could lead to flash flooding across the region, forecasters said. Parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana were under flash-flood warnings or watches on Saturday.
The Midwest storm, carrying the threat of ice and snow to the Chicago area, prompted the cancellations of more than 1,200 flights Saturday at Chicago's two main airports. Most occurred at O'Hare International, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation's online flight-tracking website.
The weather service issued a winter-weather advisory, flood watch and lakeshore flood warning for the Chicago metropolitan area for Saturday and a winter-storm warning for areas of northwestern Illinois.
Some regions were experiencing unseasonably warm conditions on Saturday even as more severe weather approached. Philadelphia had a record daily high of 67 degrees, but forecasters there warned of high winds today. Kansas City had a sudden plunge from a record daily high of 66 on Thursday to a low of 14 on Saturday and about 3 inches of snow.
Information for this article was contributed by Juan A. Lozano and Rick Callahan of The Associated Press; by Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs of The New York Times; and by Brian K. Sullivan and Hailey Waller of Bloomberg News.
Crews from First Electric Cooperative put up a new utility pole and replace downed power lines Saturday along Arkansas 232 in southern Lonoke County after a tornado hit the area overnight Friday. The storm system caused widespread damage and flooding around the state.
An upended vehicle sits amid debris from Friday night’s storm in Bossier Parish, La., where two people were found dead in their mobile home Saturday. The trailer had been blown 200 feet from its foundation, authorities said.
An unoccupied structure on Main Street in downtown Greenville, Miss., was heavily damaged in storms Saturday. Thousands of people lost power around the state.
Gabe Massengill, 11, of Baldwyn, Miss., salvages items from his cousin Chloe Harper’s room after a tree fell on their home Saturday.
A Section on 01/12/2020
Print Headline: Wind, rain, snow deadly from South to Midwest