Winter Storm Blankets America

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A windy storm that began with heavy snow pummeling mountain areas from Washington state to northern Arizona, ended up tipping tractor-trailers, disrupting flights, and toppling trees and power lines across a wide swath of the nation.

It happened as two storms converged, one from California and another from the Gulf of Alaska, meteorologists said. Another storm soon followed after that.

Click on the video plaver to view the avalanche that trapped two cars on Washington State's I-90.

A fourth strom was on the way to the interior West. "By Thursday, the next storm will be right on our doorstep. This is quite a storm system," said Jay Breidenbach of the Weather Service office in Boise, Idaho.

Severe Drop in Temperatures

The storms caused trouble nationwide, including causing Lake Erie to overflow its eastern shore Wednesday, adding flooding to the list of headaches bred by the weather.

Arctic air ripped into New York before dawn, leading to a nosedive in Tuesday's spring-like temperatures. Buffalo went from 53 degrees at 3 a.m. Wednesday to 15 degrees by noon. Classes were canceled at most area schools.

In northern Ohio, a train traveling in high winds derailed on a bridge over Sandusky Bay around 4 a.m., sending about 10 freight cars into the water, said Ottawa County Sheriff Robert Bratton. No injuries were reported.

Five people camping in a van near Elkton, Ore were rescued by authorities on Tuesday, the Douglas County sheriff's office said. The campers had planned to depart Sunday but were trapped by snow. With supplies diminishing, one man hiked to find cell phone service and to contact relatives in Tacoma, Wash., who then notified authorities.

In Washington state, an avalanche trapped two cars and forced the closure of the westbound lane of snowy Interstate 90, the state's main east-west thoroughfare, at Snoqualmie Pass.

Forceful Wind Gusts

The National Weather Service in Buffalo reported sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph, with a gust of 68 mph. Gusts of 46 mph were reported at LaGuardia Airport and close to 50 mph at Kennedy Airport.

Lake Erie suddenly rose 10½ feet during the early morning hours, leaving some roads in Buffalo's Old First Ward neighborhood covered by several inches of icy water. The lake left behind chunks of ice as it receded through the morning.

At least two tractor-trailers blew over on the New York State Thruway in western New York. Accidents prompted the state police to temporarily shut down a 60-mile stretch of the highway between Buffalo and Rochester.

A 25-vehicle pileup on Interstate 81 south of Watertown during whiteout conditions forced the closure of the southbound lane.

Utilities worked to restore power to thousands of customers from Illinois to New York and West Virginia.

Two major highways in southern Minnesota reopened early Wednesday as wind died down and snow stopped falling, but the state remained in a deep freeze, with the temperature dipping to minus 27 in the northeast.

As the sometimes unpredictable storm barreled eastward Tuesday, tornadoes or reports of tornadoes surfaced in several communities.

A twister hopscotched through Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday night, tearing the roofs from several buildings and toppling trees and power lines. Joe Sullivan, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said tornadoes touched down three times in the metro area.

In Indiana, severe thunderstorms packing wind gusts of 80 mph killed three people in mobile homes and a fourth who died in a car crash, authorities said.

Source: The Associated Press

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