Winter storm in the US warns of more tornadoes and blizzards

DALLAS (AP) — A devastating winter storm swept across the United States Wednesday, bringing blizzard-like conditions to the Great Plains hours after tornadoes touched down in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Five tornadoes were confirmed in North Texas Tuesday afternoon based on video and eyewitness accounts, but a dozen may have occurred, the National Weather Service in Fort Worth, Texas, reported.

Dozens of homes and businesses were damaged by the series of thunderstorms, and several people were injured in the suburbs and counties stretching north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. More than 1,000 flights to and from airports in the area were delayed and more than 100 were cancelled, according to tracking service FlightAware.

Two people were missing and homes were destroyed Tuesday when a tornado hit Four Forts, Louisiana, about 10 miles from Shreveport, Sgt. Casey Jones from the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“I hope they’re with relatives somewhere,” Jones said. There were no immediate reports of deaths.

The threat of severe weather continued Wednesday for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, according to the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Blizzard warnings stretched from Montana into western Nebraska and Colorado, and the National Weather Service said as much as 24 inches of snow was possible in some areas of western South Dakota and northwestern Nebraska. Winds sometimes exceeding 50 mph (80 kph) will make it impossible to see out in Nebraska, officials said.

“No one is actually traveling right now,” said Justin McCallum, a manager at the Flying J truck stop in Ogallala, Nebraska.

Forecasters expect the storm system to hobble the upper Midwest with ice, rain and snow for days on end, as well as moving northeast and the central Appalachians. Residents from West Virginia to Vermont were told to watch for a potentially significant mix of snow, ice and sleet, and the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch Wednesday night through Friday afternoon, depending on the timing of the storm.

In Grapevine, a Dallas suburb, police spokesman Amanda McNew reported five confirmed injuries on Tuesday.

A possible tornado blew off the roof of the city’s service center — a municipal facility — and left parts of the roof hanging from power lines, said Trent Kelley, deputy director of Grapevine Parks and Recreation.

It was also trash day, so the storm attracted trash and scattered it everywhere, he said.

Photos sent by the city showed downed power lines in rain-soaked streets, as well as fallen trees, damaged buildings and a semi-trailer that appeared to have been flung across a parking lot.

In Colorado, all roads in the northeastern quadrant of the state were closed. Severe weather in the livestock region could also threaten livestock. Extreme winds can push cattle through fences as they follow the storm’s direction, said Jim Santomaso, a Northeast representative for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

“If this continues,” Santomaso said, “the cattle could be driven for miles.”

A blizzard warning has been issued on Minnesota’s north coast as some areas expect up to 24 inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 40 mph. And in the south of the state, wind gusts of up to 50 mph had reduced visibility.

Meteorologist Melissa Dye of the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities said this is a “long-lived event” with snow, ice and rain through Friday night. Minnesota expected a quiet Wednesday followed by a second round of snow.

The same weather system has been dumping heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada and western US in recent days.

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Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press writers Ken Miller in Oklahoma City; Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas; Sam Metz in Salt Lake City; Trisha Ahmed in Minneapolis; Jesse Bedayn in Denver; Margery Beck in Omaha, Nebraska; and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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