KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Storms spread misery Saturday from the Great Plains to the Gulf Coast, dumping spring snow that cut power to thousands of Kansas utility customers and spawning tornado warnings and heavy rain across the South.
Two deaths were reported in Kansas as a spring blizzard buried parts of the state in ice, slush and up to two feet of snow. A 72-year-old man shoveling snow died of a heart attack Saturday while waiting for an ambulance slowed by impassable roads in Arlington, in central Kansas, authorities told The Hutchinson News. On Friday, a 58-year-old woman was killed in a car accident on icy roadways in Marion County.
The system also prompted a disaster declaration in Kansas and was blamed for two traffic deaths in Oklahoma.
The National Weather Service warned eastern Iowa about a narrow band of snow that will be particularly nasty, with forecast accumulation of 4 to 6 inches.
Mixed in with the heavy snow could be thunder and lightning, a phenomenon called thundersnow, which typically produces heavy snow over a brief period.
"Snow, and lots of it," was Kyle Obert's laconic assessment of the weather conditions in Iowa City. Obert, 23, a clerk at a Casey's General Store north of downtown, said snow began piling up at about 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Bands of spring storms also lashed the Southeast with thunderstorms, baseball-sized hail, flash floods and tornado watches and warnings. The region was still reeling from twisters over the past two days. On Thursday, nearly 30 people were hurt when a tornado destroyed dozens of homes and businesses across south-central Mississippi. On Friday, tornadoes struck Louisiana, Alabama and North Carolina, damaging homes and toppling trees.
Strong winds Saturday damaged roofs and windows and sent debris flying in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the state emergency management agency said. Three people were injured and treated at the scene.
Severe thunderstorms tore off roofs and downed trees and power lines in Corydon in western Kentucky.
About 100 roads in southern Mississippi were impassable at the height of the bad weather because of flooding, including the main route into Biloxi, Harrison County Emergency Management Director Rupert Lacy said. Some residents had to be rescued from stalled cars in flood waters.
More than 200 homes in the Biloxi area sustained flood damage and two roads sustained major pavement washouts, Lacy said.
"We have springtime storms," Lacy said. "But this is a very unusual springtime storm."
People were evacuated from about a dozen homes in Geneva County in southeast Alabama because of flooding, said Margaret Mixon, the county's emergency management director.
Up to 17 inches had fallen over three days in isolated areas in Alabama and Mississippi, said National Weather Service meteorologist Kirk Caceras.
In Missouri, Kansas City International Airport was closed for more than two hours Saturday because of a mix of freezing rain and snow. Officials said they briefly closed the airport to departing and arriving flights because maintenance crews couldn't keep up with waves of freezing rain and snow and conditions were too slick for aircraft to operate safely.
The storm also dumped as much as two feet of snow on parts of Oklahoma. It was blamed for two deadly accidents in central Oklahoma and dozens of other collisions in northwest Oklahoma, including one that left a truck driver critically injured.