Blizzard batters U.S. heartland, spreads snowy mess into the Midwest

CNN Wire Service

Another week, another blizzard for the snow-weary Midwest.

Gobs of wet, heavy snow plopped to the ground early Tuesday in the Kansas City area along the Kansas and Missouri border in what the National Weather Service called a “crippling, historic blizzard.”

The piling snow snapped tree branches, brought down power lines and made it tough for snow plows and utility crews to keep up. Power outages doubled to 25,000 before dawn, Kansas City Power and Light said. Most flights out of Kansas City International Airport were canceled.

It was the second major winter storm to pummel the region in as many weeks, and it could bring up to 18 inches of snow to parts of Kansas, Missouri and Illinois a day after plastering Oklahoma and Texas. Winter storm watches and warnings stretched from Oklahoma to Michigan.

“Schools are closed, and I don’t think there’s a snow shovel in place in the area to be found,” said Sly James, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri.

The Kansas National Guard warned that continued snowfall and gusty winds would make travel tricky through Wednesday.

In Woodward, Oklahoma, emergency vehicles were still having trouble getting around Tuesday, a day after the storm dropped more than 15 inches of snow.

Crews dispatched to a house fire Monday had trouble reaching the home because of 4-foot snowdrifts. The snowplow sent to free the firefighters also got stuck. Even Tuesday, emergency vehicles still were having a tough time getting around.

“We’re in such a mess,” Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill said.

At least three people have died because of the storm: one in Woodward when a roof collapsed, Hill said.

The other two deaths came in Kansas on Monday in separate weather-related accidents on Interstate 70. One accident happened in Sherman County and the other in Ellis County, the Kansas National Guard said.

Whiteout conditions

The storm follows one last week that paralyzed a broad swath of the Plains and Midwest with more than a foot of snow. Parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and other states were affected.

The storm prompted a state of emergency declaration in Kansas and parts of Oklahoma, bringing whiteout conditions to southern parts of those states and Texas.

Schools in Wichita, Kansas, were closed Tuesday for a fourth straight day after last week’s storm, which dumped a record 14.2 inches on the city. Wichita has received 21 inches of snow in February, breaking a record that had stood for 100 years, the National Weather Service said. And it all fell in the last six days.

In Texas, where Amarillo saw 19 inches of snow Monday, fierce winds whipped snow into whiteout conditions that left truck driver and CNN iReporter Phillip Prince — carrying a load of frozen pizzas — stranded on Interstate 40 near Groom for nine hours.

“It was pretty nasty when we first got into it,” he said. “But then it turned into a whiteout.”

By Monday night, though, conditions had improved in the Texas panhandle.

“Things have cleared up now,” said CNN iReporter Julie Swift, a student at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview. “The snow is starting to melt and the roads are improving. It’s still very windy, though.”

Rain, ice elsewhere

Also on tap for Tuesday: up to 7 inches of much-needed snow in the Chicago and Detroit areas; high winds in Tennessee, North Carolina and southern Virginia; the threat of ice in West Virginia; and more drenching rain in the Southeast, the National Weather Service said.

In the Southeast, gusty winds and flooding were the concerns.

In Mobile, Alabama, the storm was expected to bring heavy rains and 30 mph wind gusts early Tuesday. Tornado watches were up in southeast Georgia and parts of Florida through Tuesday afternoon. Flood watches and warnings were in place from Louisiana to South Carolina.

— CNN’s Brandon Miller, Erin McPike, Ric Ward, Janet DiGiacomo, Greg Botelho and Henry Hanks contributed to this report.