Winds shred Southern Plains; California set to get more snow
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Parts of the Southern Plains counted the injured and surveyed the damage Monday after tornadoes and other powerful winds swept through, killing at least one person in Oklahoma, while some Michigan residents faced a fifth consecutive day without power following last week’s ice storm.
In California, the National Weather Service said winter storms will continue moving into the state through Wednesday after residents got a brief break from severe weather Sunday.
Parts of the Northeast that have seen little snow this winter were under a winter storm warning. And forecasters warned of continued high winds in parts of the Plains and of thunderstorms and possible tornadoes in the Ohio Valley.
A look at the weather threats around the country:
TORNADO FORECAST, CLEANUP
A storm system produced at least four tornadoes as it moved across central and northeastern Illinois on Monday, including two that formed in suburbs west of Chicago, authorities said. Initial reports suggested damage there was limited to fallen trees or shingles torn from buildings, said Rafal Ogorek, a meteorologist in the Chicago office of the National Weather Service.
At least one person was killed and three others injured after a tornado touched down Sunday night in far western Oklahoma near the town of Cheyenne, where 20 homes were damaged and four others destroyed, Roger Mills County Emergency Manager Levi Blackketter reported.
Statewide, Oklahoma officials received reports of 55 people who suffered weather-related injuries from area hospitals.
Officials in Norman, Oklahoma, confirmed 12 weather-related injuries after tornadoes and wind gusts as high as 90 mph (145 kph) were reported in the state Sunday night. The winds toppled trees and power lines, closed roads and damaged homes and businesses around Norman and Shawnee.
Classes were canceled Monday at two damaged elementary schools, said Norman Police Chief Kevin Foster.
Frances Tabler, of Norman, told KOCO-TV that she suffered a small cut on her head when a storm hit her home, tearing off much of its roof and sending debris flying. She said it was a miracle her children weren’t hurt, although her daughter was trapped for awhile in a bedroom.
“It was just like a blizzard in the house with all the debris flying,” Tabler told KOCO. “I was screaming for my kids.”
The line of quick-moving thunderstorms that produced a swath of damaging wind gusts across likely qualified as a derecho, although that’s not an official designation, said Nolan Meister, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
Meister said a wind gust of 114 mph (183 kph) was recorded in Texas, with gusts between 70 mph (113 kph) and 90 mph (145 kph) in central Oklahoma.
More than 76,000 customers lost power in Oklahoma, but most had it restored by Monday morning, Oklahoma’s Office of Emergency Management reported.
There were reports of nine tornadoes in Kansas, Oklahoma and northwestern Texas, weather officials said. One tornado near Liberal, Kansas, damaged more than a dozen homes and caused minor injuries to one person, KSNW-TV reported.
BLIZZARD CONDITIONS IN WESTERN U.S.
Blizzard warnings went into effect Monday in the Sierra Nevada range as more rounds of rain and snow moved into California and Nevada.
An avalanche warning was issued for the backcountry around Lake Tahoe, where up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) of snow was expected over the next two days in the upper elevations and gale-force winds could create waves up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) high on the lake, the National Weather Service in Reno said. State offices across northern Nevada and the Nevada Legislature in Carson City were shut down because of the severe weather.
The new series of storms arrived even as parts of California were still digging out from last week’s powerful storm, which added to a massive snowpack left by a siege of “atmospheric rivers” in December and January.
A 90-mile (145-km) stretch of U.S. 395 in California’s eastern Sierra was shut down Monday evening due to whiteout conditions, state transportation officials said. Yosemite National Park announced it would be closed until midweek, and numerous roads were closed in Sequoia National Park. Trans-Sierra highways were subject to closures and chain requirements.
Los Angeles County declared a cold weather alert for valley and mountain areas north of LA as overnight temperatures were expected to plunge below freezing for much of the week. Shelters were opened for residents who don’t have access to warm spaces.
East of Los Angeles, roads to San Bernardino Mountain resort communities around Big Bear Lake were closed after snow began falling again. The storm stranded more than 600 students at science camps in the Big Bear area over the weekend. The students from Irvine in Orange County were expected home Friday but officials decided it was safer to keep them in the mountains until the roads could be cleared. The California Highway Patrol began escorting out buses carrying the kids on Monday, the Irvine Unified School District said.
The northbound side of Interstate 5, the West Coast’s major north-south highway, was shut down by wintry conditions and disabled vehicles about 90 miles (145 km) south of the Oregon line. Interstate 80, the major route between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe and Reno was closed due to blizzard conditions.
STORMS IN MICHIGAN AND NORTHEAST
In Michigan, still reeling from last week’s ice storm and high winds, more than 180,000 customers were without power Monday, according to PowerOutage.us. That was down from more than 800,000 at one point last week. Crews continued their work to restore all electricity.
Leah Thomas, whose home north of Detroit lost power Wednesday night, finally got her power back Sunday afternoon — only to have it go out again at midday Monday.
“It’s very frustrating, very frustrating,” she said. “I’m just going to hope and cross my fingers that it comes back on here soon.”
While not expecting a blockbuster storm by regional standards, southern New England braced for what could be the most significant snowfall of what has so far been a mild winter.
A winter storm warning covered parts of the Northeast, including Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Rhode Island, with heavy snow forecast for Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon.
Boston could get 5 inches and a messy Tuesday morning commute, according to the weather service. As much as 10 inches could fall in western Massachusetts, northwest Connecticut and southern Vermont.
Antczak reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers from across the country contributed to this report.