MAJOR SNOWSTORM LASHES GREAT PLAINS, HEADS EAST

-Reuters

A major winter storm barreled through the U.S. Great
Plains on Thursday, creating hazardous travel that resulted in at
least one death, closing schools, scuttling air travel and cutting off
power to some communities.

More than a foot of snow fell across parts of Kansas, while blowing
winds created massive snowdrifts, exacerbating hazardous driving
conditions. Highway I-70 was closed for 90 miles from Hays, Kansas
eastward to Salina and hotel rooms were fast filling up along the
corridor. Shelters were opened for stranded travelers.

Winter storm warnings and advisories continued for much of the central
and southern Plains and into the upper Midwest and Mississippi River
Valley as the storm moved east dropping snow, sleet and freezing rain,
the National Weather Service said.

The fierce storm was expected to spawn thunderstorms and rain on its
southern edge from eastern Texas to Georgia, the forecaster said. Ice
storm warnings were in effect for parts of northern Arkansas.

Thunder accompanied snow in Kansas City, hit by 2 to 3 inches of snow
per hour on Thursday morning.

“When there is thunder and lightning, it’s a pretty screaming clue
that you are going to have massive snowfall,” said Andy Bailey, a
meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill,
Missouri.

Snow tapered off by early afternoon.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback declared
states of emergency because of hazardous travel and possible power
outages. Brownback ordered state offices closed because of the storm.

Kansas City International Airport was closed on Thursday while crews
cleared runways. It was unclear when the airport would reopen,
spokesman Joe McBride said.

At Denver International Airport, some 55 commuter flights were
canceled overnight, spokeswoman Laura Coale said. More than 320
flights in and out of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport were
scrapped and nearly 50 flights in and out of Omaha’s Eppley Airfield
were listed as canceled by midday.

In Nebraska, a 19-year-old woman was killed in a two-car accident on
Wednesday on Interstate 80 near Giltner. The Nebraska State Patrol
said weather was a factor.

ROAD ACCIDENTS

The brunt of the snowstorm churned through Kansas, causing scores of
accidents and forcing vehicles off roads, but there were no
fatalities, according to the state highway patrol.

Six Kansas Highway patrol cars and some tow trucks were stuck in the
Lawrence, Kansas, area Thursday afternoon as they tried to reach
stranded motorists, highway patrol spokesman Joshua Kellerman said.

“People are getting stuck in the middle of the roadway, it’s just that
deep,” Kellerman said.

The Missouri Highway Patrol reported a dozen accidents in the district
around St. Louis as sleet and snow began to blanket area roads around
midmorning, Sergeant Al Nothum said.

Some parts of southeast Kansas reported power outages because warmer
temperatures created sleet and ice on power lines, said Sharon Watson,
a spokesperson for the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.

Up to 12.5 inches of snow fell in the northern part of Oklahoma, while
Nebraska received 5 to 9 inches, the National Weather Service said.
Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska, were bracing for 8 inches of snow or
more.

Schools across parts of Iowa sent students home Thursday morning as
snow arrived there, officials said.

Drought-stricken farmers in the Great Plains, one of the world’s
largest wheat-growing areas, welcomed the moisture brought by the
storm, although experts said more rain or snow would be needed to
ensure healthy crops.

Snow from the powerful storm fell as far south as Tucson, Arizona, on
Wednesday. The rare snowfall halted play at the World Golf
Championships-Accenture Match Play tournament near Tucson.

(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson, Ben Berkowitz, Keith Coffman in
Denver, Suzi Parker in Little Rock, Kay Henderson in Des Moines, Steve
Olafson in Oklahoma City and Tim Bross in St. Louis; Editing by Paul
Thomasch and David Gregorio)

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