Heavy Snow Slams Northeast; Storm Cleanup Begins in South

A man clears his driveway with a shovel on March 4 in Lapeer, Mich., after a large snowstorm dropped 9 inches of snow overnight. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

(AP) – The winter-weary Northeast and upper Midwest were digging out from heavy snowfall while cleanup began in battered parts of the South and Midwest after a sprawling storm system produced ferocious winds that left widespread damage and caused multiple deaths.

Snow fell across a large swath of the Northeast, from western New York to New England, with some areas expecting more than a foot of snow on Saturday. The mix of snow, sleet and rain prompted the National Weather Service to warn of possible coastal flooding in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The storm could bring as much as 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow to parts of New Hampshire and Maine. It also could deliver strong winds that could cause power outages.

Hundreds of businesses were closed, many flights were canceled and some bus service was suspended. The heavy, wet snow was accompanied by winds gusting to 40 to 50 mph (64 to 80 kph), raising concerns about toppled trees and power outages, said meteorologist Jon Palmer with the National Weather Service in Maine.

In the upper Midwest, residents dug out Saturday from heavy snowfall that caused widespread power outages and forced Detroit’s Metropolitan Wayne County Airport to briefly close late Friday.

The sprawling storm system spawned straight-line winds, possible tornadoes and powerful thunderstorms in the South on Friday.

At least five deaths were reported in hard-hit Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday. The storm, with wind gusts surpassing 70 mph, downed trees and power lines and damaged homes and other buildings.

“This is very significant, widespread damage throughout Kentucky,” Beshear said.

In central Tennessee, where the severe weather took down power lines and damaged homes, at least two deaths were blamed on the storm. In both cases, the victims were struck by falling trees, authorities told local news outlets.

About 780,000 utility customers in Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan were without power, according to PowerOutage.us. More than 350,000 of those customers were in Kentucky, and the governor warned it would take days for utility crews to fully restore service.

Kentucky’s electric cooperatives reported hundreds of snapped utility poles and thousands of power lines down across the Bluegrass State. Soft ground from heavy rains slowed the progress of heavy equipment to access damaged infrastructure.

At the height of the windstorm, more than 300,000 consumer-members lost power in Kentucky, the co-ops said. By early Saturday afternoon, about 148,000 members remained without power.

“The damage from this event is as widespread as any natural disaster I have ever seen in Kentucky co-op history,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives.

The storm system previously slammed California with as much as 10 feet (3 meters) of snow. Search crews have rescued several Californians stranded in the state’s mountain communities, and some residents east of Los Angeles will likely remain cut off in their homes for at least another week after the snowfall proved too much to handle for most plows.

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