From blizzard conditions to a tornado, Mother Nature batters America's midsection

Four people injured in Arkansas twister.

Posted: Apr 14, 2018 9:37 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A potent spring storm system that's expected to persist through the weekend raked across the Midwest, spawning at least one tornado in Arkansas as blizzard conditions blanketed much of the Northern Plains.

A tornado ripped through the tiny Ozark Mountain town of Mountainburg, Arkansas, injuring at least four people and causing widespread damage Friday afternoon.

Crawford County Emergency Management Director Brad Thomas said there were at least three entrapments following the twister. He said he did not know the condition of the four people hospitalized.

Video from the scene showed uprooted trees, overturned cars, damaged buildings and downed power lines.

The huge storm, packing enough energy to cause widespread disruption, isn't unprecedented for April, said Jake Beitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

"We do get pretty powerful systems coming throughout the Midwest, and on the cold side we do get snow. And this one is particularly strong. So we do have a lot of moisture with it, and a lot of energy," Beitlich said. "Over the next 24 hours cold air is going to get wrapped into this system and we're going to see a band of heavy snow develop from southwestern Minnesota through northern Wisconsin. Also we're going to have really strong winds, especially in western Minnesota."

Blizzard warnings stretched from northern Kansas across most of Nebraska and South Dakota into southwestern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa, with winter storm warnings and watches covering most of the rest of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Heavy snow already blanketed parts of western Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota by early afternoon Friday, closing major highways in South Dakota and many roads and highways in western Nebraska — including a 200-mile stretch of cross-country thoroughfare Interstate 80 from North Platte west to the Wyoming border.

A road conditions report said most roads in the Nebraska Panhandle to east of Valentine in the northern part of the state were impassable because of heavy snow cover.

The snow also led officials to shut down the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, airport Friday afternoon through Saturday night.

Snow, freezing rain and high winds were expected through Saturday night, with heavy ice accumulations in parts of Michigan through Sunday morning.

A swath of southern Minnesota, including Minneapolis though northern Wisconsin, was expected to get 8 to 12 inches of snow or more. Parts of northern Nebraska could get up to 18 inches, with up to 12 inches in northwestern Iowa. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph will make travel hazardous.

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma, had issued tornado watches Friday for eastern Texas and western Louisiana, moving up through eastern Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and into Missouri and Iowa. The weather service also warned of the potential for strong thunderstorms, large hail and damaging winds for Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and eastern portions of Texas.

In Conway, Arkansas, strong winds caused damage at several buildings at the University of Central Arkansas on Friday. The school said on its Facebook page that students were evacuated from an all-female freshman dormitory after its roof was damaged. No injuries were reported.

In Mountain Home in northern Arkansas, authorities evacuated a nursing home after its roof was severely damaged by heavy winds. Police said no injuries were reported.

The threat of severe weather prompted officials with the French Quarter Festival in New Orleans to cancel all of Saturday's events, held outdoors across 23 stages scattered throughout the historic neighborhood. Organizers said the festival will reopen for its final day on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Forecasters said Alabama was also at risk for a weekend of severe weather, with the National Weather Service predicting storms beginning over north Alabama early Saturday will create a threat of winds up to 60 mph and tornadoes through Sunday.

The Storm Prediction Center said there's an enhanced risk of bad weather in an area that includes Birmingham, Huntsville and Mobile, and that Montgomery is on the fringe of the risk area.

Severe thunderstorms also popped up to the north Friday morning in parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota. Golf ball-sized hail fell Friday morning in parts of southwestern Wisconsin, covering the ground like snow in Richland Center and Gays Mills. Large hail also fell in Parker in southeastern South Dakota while pea-sized hail fell in nearby Sioux Falls.

"That that just kind of again speaks to how strong the system is, where you're going to get a lot of snow on the cold side, and severe thunderstorms in the warm part of the storm," Beitlich said.

In South Dakota, where a blizzard warning covered much of the state, authorities issued no-travel advisories for many highways and closed much of Interstate 90 in the western half of the state. Gov. Dennis Daugaard closed state government offices in 32 counties ahead the approaching blizzard. Dozens of school districts canceled classes ahead of snow accumulation expected to reach as much as 18 inches in some areas. Rapid City had already received 5.5 inches by 10 a.m.

Dangerous fire weather conditions in Oklahoma contributed to wildfires that forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes near Woodward, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) northeast of Oklahoma City. Emergency crews in western Texas were also battling wildfires amid forecasts of extreme fire danger.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 94189

Reported Deaths: 2046
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin26706928
Ramsey10775319
Dakota7428125
Anoka6006133
Stearns395024
Washington373555
Scott253233
Olmsted238828
Nobles196116
Blue Earth16766
Wright16037
St. Louis155539
Carver13967
Clay137140
Rice13288
Mower13225
Sherburne113714
Kandiyohi9822
Winona87018
Lyon6784
Waseca6148
Freeborn5404
Steele5402
Benton5363
Nicollet52916
Watonwan5204
Crow Wing49418
Todd4882
Chisago4841
McLeod4782
Le Sueur4604
Otter Tail4304
Beltrami4135
Martin39410
Goodhue3609
Pine3190
Itasca31314
Polk3054
Douglas2972
Isanti2890
Becker2722
Carlton2631
Morrison2331
Dodge2320
Cottonwood2240
Pipestone22010
Chippewa2081
Meeker1982
Sibley1913
Wabasha1880
Brown1842
Yellow Medicine1762
Rock1660
Cass1654
Murray1632
Mille Lacs1583
Redwood1581
Unassigned15552
Renville1478
Jackson1451
Faribault1410
Swift1371
Houston1250
Koochiching1213
Kanabec1198
Roseau1180
Pennington1171
Fillmore1160
Lincoln1110
Hubbard971
Stevens971
Pope920
Big Stone810
Aitkin761
Wadena680
Wilkin633
Grant614
Lake580
Norman540
Lac qui Parle531
Marshall511
Mahnomen461
Red Lake441
Traverse290
Clearwater270
Lake of the Woods211
Kittson120
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 84671

Reported Deaths: 1303
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk15779262
Woodbury535664
Johnson510027
Black Hawk447290
Linn3973111
Story342917
Dubuque317341
Scott297128
Dallas277138
Pottawattamie208938
Buena Vista198412
Marshall177734
Sioux15653
Wapello132857
Webster125114
Plymouth112220
Clinton111221
Muscatine110054
Crawford10775
Cerro Gordo105121
Warren9516
Jasper83332
Des Moines7748
Marion7567
Henry7305
Tama70831
Carroll6605
Lee6247
Wright5811
Dickinson5106
Boone5058
Bremer4887
Washington45611
Louisa42815
Mahaska40619
Delaware3973
Franklin34718
Floyd3423
Jackson3373
Winneshiek3306
Hamilton3223
Clay3194
Lyon3184
Benton3091
Winnebago30113
Hardin2991
Poweshiek2928
Buchanan2741
Butler2702
Jones2693
Clarke2653
Kossuth2650
Shelby2651
Emmet26110
Allamakee2596
Clayton2523
Sac2480
Cherokee2462
Chickasaw2460
Guthrie2446
Cedar2411
Grundy2193
Fayette2172
Harrison2143
Madison2122
Iowa2041
Mitchell1890
Humboldt1883
Palo Alto1880
Howard1876
Hancock1842
Calhoun1823
Mills1781
Cass1632
Monroe15710
Osceola1570
Pocahontas1572
Lucas1566
Page1540
Monona1501
Jefferson1381
Appanoose1363
Union1313
Taylor1271
Davis1244
Ida1201
Fremont1150
Van Buren1141
Keokuk1071
Worth1070
Greene1000
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