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At least 12 dead as massive winter storm system hits U.S.


A powerful outbreak of severe weather beginning Friday, January 10, 2020, has claimed at least 12 lives in Alabama, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas as storms hit parts of the Gulf Coast and Southeast U.S. Meanwhile, ice storm warnings were in place for parts of the northern USA, including Michigan to the north of Detroit, as well as Upstate New York and Downeast Maine.

The major severe weather episode started across parts of the Southern Plains in Texas and Oklahoma, and spread east into Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.

As of Sunday night, January 12, five tornados have been confirmed: three in north Alabama and two in the central area, including the fatal Pickens County storm where three people died while seven others were injured.

Winds of at least 129 km/h (80 mph) were clocked in both Texas and Mississippi. Accumulating snow was reported in Denton, north of Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, with up to 8 cm (3 inches) of snowfall. Another swath of snow accumulation also ran from Kansas to Wisconsin.

Four fatalities in Texas, three in northwestern Louisiana, three in Alabama, one in Iowa, and one in Oklahoma were being blamed on the potent storm system.

A man was killed in East Texas when a tree fell on his home. Another person was killed when his car landed upside down in a creek in Dallas. Moreover, a police officer and a paramedic in Northwest Texas died in a car crash while working to clear an earlier traffic accident on Interstate 27. One Lubbock firefighter was left in severe condition.

Two elderly people died in Louisiana after their mobile home collapsed, while another person died when a tree fell and hit his home.

The Pickens County storm is being blamed for three deaths and seven injuries on Settlement Road near Carrollton. A man drowned in floodwaters near Kiowa while he was trying to leave his truck that was stalled.

Three people died in a tornado in Carrollton Alabama, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Birmingham.

One person was killed in Cedar County in Iowa when a vehicle flipped over on its side due to icy road conditions. Another person was killed in Kiowa, Oklahoma after being swept away by floodwaters.

Tornado warnings were in place in the Dallas area, while severe thunderstorm warnings were issued in most of the region. On Friday afternoon, January 10, a twister destroyed two homes near Missouri, while another tornado damaged a home near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. At least three homes were ruined in Arkansas tornado, which also knocked down trees and power lines.

Also on Friday, hail and snow up to 13 cm (5 inches) were reported when storms crossed the southeast and the Great Lakes to Maine, NWS said.

As of Saturday evening, January 11, over 267 000 customers between Arkansas and Ohio experienced widespread power outages. 

On Sunday, January 12, snow created extremely slick roads that resulted in several crashes in Iowa and central Minnesota.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for parts of Michigan to the north of Detroit, Upstate New York, and Down East Maine. Some areas in northern New York are forecast to see as much as 2.5 cm (1 inch) of ice, which can possibly bring down trees and affect power grids.

In addition, a flood warning is in effect along Lake Michigan and the Chicago area, where winds are expected to trigger rough waves up to 7 m (23 feet). On Saturday, more than 1 200 flights departing from Chicago O'Hare International Airport were canceled.

According to forecasts, "a series of storm systems will bring heavy mountain snow, locally heavy rain, strong winds, and hazardous travel conditions across the Northwest U.S. this week."

"A cold front will bring the potential for heavy rainfall and localized flooding to the Southeast U.S.," Monday into Tuesday, January 13 into 14, NWS said.

Featured image credit: Giuseppe Milo

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