By Brendan O’Brien
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) – A powerful spring storm pummeled the U.S. Midwest and Plains on Saturday with blizzard conditions and high winds, while tornadoes and thunderstorms threatened some of the South.
Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota were under warnings for blizzard-like conditions. The city of St. Paul, Minnesota declared a snow emergency.
Forecasters were expecting more than a foot of snow (30 cm) in parts of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wind gusts around Duluth, Minnesota had exceeded 50 miles (80 km) per hour, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
“Difficult, dangerous travel conditions expected,” it said on Twitter.
As the storm pushed south into Saturday evening, authorities warned that severe thunderstorms could bring gusting winds, flooding and hail. Severe weather warnings extended from Texas to central Alabama, which was under a tornado watch.
Freezing rain and ice storms were expected to move into northern New England through Monday.
National weather forecasters also cautioned that high winds were producing critical fire conditions in the Southern Plains.
On Friday, the system produced 10 reports of tornadoes in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, the weather service said. Four people were injured and 160 buildings damaged in a possible tornado in northwest Arkansas, local media reported.
About 50,000 customers in the Texas and Louisiana were without power on Saturday afternoon, along with an additional 45,000 in Michigan and Wisconsin, the website Poweroutage.us reported.
The airport in Rochester, Minnesota said on Twitter it had canceled all flights until Sunday morning “due to the extreme weather conditions.” Rapidly falling snow also prompted Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to suspend flight operations on Saturday afternoon.
(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Detroit; Editing by Helen Popper and Alistair Bell)