Two-sided Storm Unleashes Heavy Snow, Tornadoes And Flooding
A potent cross-country storm brought a slew of weather hazards to the central United States this week, including heavy snow, tornadoes, gusty winds and flash flooding. More than 2 feet of snow was reported in the Rockies, while floodwaters and severe weather closed roads and schools across the South. At least four injuries are being attributed to the storm, but no fatalities have been reported.
Four Northwestern University staff members were injured Thursday after a tree fell on them during the winter storm that passed through the Chicago area, The Associated Press reported. The tree fell around noon and hit four people walking on a sidewalk located on the campus, which is in Evanston, just north of Chicago, the AP noted.
“Snow, ice, wind combination contributed to the falling of a fairly large tree that resulted in injuries to the victims,” said Matt Smith, a division chief with the Evanston Fire Department.
One of the victims was said to be in critical condition at Evanston Hospital while two others were listed in serious condition. The fourth victim was reportedly offered medical care before signing a patient refusal form.
“The university is working with an arborist to determine what caused the tree to fall and if other trees in the area are potentially compromised,” Northwestern University media relations spokesperson Eliza Larson said at a press briefing Thursday.
As heavy snow fell from Arizona to Michigan, roadways across the country were impacted. AccuWeather Meteorologist Tony Laubach reported several crashes on Interstate 70 in Colorado and Kansas created a mess on the highway.
“Starting late Tuesday night into Wednesday here in Kansas, blowing snow created visibility issues on I-70,” said Laubach. “Wrecks plagued the interstate throughout the night thanks to icy conditions after dark.”
In Iowa, moderate to heavy snow bands persisted throughout the day Thursday, which wreaked havoc on roadways across the state. The Iowa State Patrol responded to more than 330 calls for service on Thursday, according to a tally posted to its Twitter. At least 157 of those calls were for crashes, while the other 191 calls were to assist motorists. The department noted that at least five people were injured, but no fatalities were reported.
Coal Bank Pass, Colorado, located between Durango and Silverton, Colorado, and at an elevation of about 10,000 feet , received 27 inches of snow since Wednesday, which was the highest reported snowfall total from the storm. In Chupadero, New Mexico, which is located northeast of Santa Fe, 22 inches of snow was reported over the course of a two-day period.
The recent storm resulted in one New Mexico city receiving more snow than some cities in the Northeast have seen all season. Albuquerque measured just over an inch of snow from this week’s winter storm, which is more than double the amount of snow New York City has received since meteorological winter started on Dec. 1, 2022. Another Northeast city that now stands behind Albuquerque is Philadelphia, which has only received 0.3 of an inch of snow since the meteorological winter began.
East of the Rockies, the two highest snowfall totals came from Quinter, Kansas, and Lincoln, Nebraska; both cities reported 11 inches of snow. To the east in Tiffin, Iowa, a total of 8.5 inches of snow had fallen. Parts of Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan also received at least 3 inches of snow as a result of the winter storm.
AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell reported from Mississippi Thursday following several tornado-warned storms. Wadell said reports of homes that were damaged or destroyed had begun to trickle in, and trees and power lines were knocked over. The damage that was observed in the state was in very “isolated, intense pockets,” according to Wadell.
In Smithville, Mississippi, a town located near the Mississippi-Alabama state line, resident James Stanford captured a video of a tornado spinning just a few miles from town. Smithville took a direct hit from a deadly EF5 twister during the April 2011 tornado outbreak, but the community was spared Thursday.
Before the sun rose Thursday, a twister touched down in northwestern Arkansas, damaging several homes and roofs in the area. Multiple downed trees and power lines were reported as well. By Thursday afternoon, the NWS confirmed the damage in Searcy County where the tornado touched down was consistent with at least EF1 strength.
Even where tornadoes did not touch down Thursday, thunderstorm winds did cause some damage. The highest winds were primarily in Arkansas and Missouri, with Conway, Arkansas, measuring a 62-mph wind gust.
Besides tornadoes, wind and hail, the storms Wednesday and Thursday also triggered significant rainfall. Interstate 65 near Cullman, Alabama, was closed for a short time Thursday evening in both directions due to flooding before reopening a short time later.
A daycare in Dover, Tennessee, located in northwestern Tennessee near the Kentucky border, was evacuated Thursday morning as floodwaters approached the building. Flash flooding reached the building just before noon, local time. The daycare had already been closed, and all the children were picked up safely.
“There was flooding nearby, and approaching the building, but no children were ever in danger,” Stewart County Emergency Management Director Clint Mathis told AccuWeather.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for all 55 counties in West Virginia due to heavy rainfall and thunderstorms that affected the state Thursday.
“As the weather system makes its way through the state, creeks and streams have spilled over, and roads are closed in numerous counties due to high water and mudslides,” the online statement read.
In addition, Justice directed the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (EMD) to implement the state’s emergency operations plan to aid in flood response.
In Lincoln County, located in southern West Virginia, students were held at the Lincoln County High School due to unsafe conditions for bus transportation. Floodwaters and a downed power line impacted the bus route for many students. School officials kept the students overnight and were hopeful that water levels will recede to allow for safe transportation of students Friday.
Elsewhere, mudslides were reported in Kentucky and some water rescues were performed in northern Alabama.
On Friday morning, numerous flood warnings and advisories remained in effect across the southern U.S. As water levels recede during the day Friday, these flood warnings will expire.
Produced in association with AccuWeather.