Cross-country US storm causes blizzard warnings, tornadoes

A destructive storm marched across the US on Wednesday, spawning tornadoes in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, where the deaths of a young boy and his mother were reported, delivering blizzard-like conditions to the Great Plains and threatening more severe weather in the south.

In northern Louisiana, the boy was found dead in a wooded area more than a half-mile from his home in Keithville, just south of Shreveport, the Caddo parish sheriff, Steve Prator, said. The child’s mother was later found dead one street over from her home, he said.

The child’s father reported them missing from their home, which the sheriff said was demolished in the storm.

“We couldn’t even find the house that he was describing with the address. Everything was gone,” Prator told KSLA, a Shreveport TV station.

In Farmerville, Louisiana, about 90 miles east of Keithville, about 20 people were taken to hospital, some with critical injuries, after a tornado caused major damage to mobile homes and an apartment complex, the Union parish sheriff said.

The forecast for Wednesday called for more severe storms and potentially additional tornadoes along the central Gulf coast, including New Orleans and southern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

Five tornadoes were confirmed across north Texas on Tuesday afternoon, based on video and eyewitness reports, but potentially a dozen may have occurred, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Fort Worth, Texas, said.

Dozens of homes and businesses were damaged by thunderstorms and several people were injured in suburbs and counties north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. More than 1,000 flights were delayed and more than 100 canceled, according to the tracking service FlightAware.

In the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, a police spokesperson, Amanda McNew, reported five confirmed injuries. A possible tornado blew the roof off the city’s service center and left pieces of the roof hanging from power lines, said Trent Kelley, deputy director of Grapevine Parks and Recreation.

Photos sent by the city showed downed power lines on rain-soaked streets as well as toppled trees, damaged buildings and a semitrailer that appeared to have been tossed around a parking lot.

Forecasters expected the storm system to hobble the upper midwest with ice, rain and snow for days, as well as move into the north-east and central Appalachians.

Residents from West Virginia to Vermont were told to watch out for a possible significant mix of snow, ice and sleet, and the NWS issued a winter storm watch from Wednesday night through Friday afternoon.

Blizzard warnings stretched from Montana into western Nebraska and Colorado and the NWS said as much as 2ft of snow was possible in some areas of western South Dakota and north-western Nebraska. Winds of more than 50mph at times will make it impossible to see outdoors in Nebraska, officials said.

In Colorado, all roads were closed in the north-east of the state. The severe weather in the ranching region could also threaten livestock. Extreme winds can push livestock through fences as they follow the gale’s direction, said Jim Santomaso, a north-east representative for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

“If this keeps up,” said Santomaso, “cattle could drift miles.”

A blizzard warning was issued on Minnesota’s north shore, as some areas are expecting up to 24in of snow and wind gusts up to 40mph. In the south of the state, winds gusting up to 50mph had reduced visibility.

The NWS meteorologist Melissa Dye, in the Twin Cities, said this is a “long duration event” with snow, ice and rain through Friday night. Minnesota was expecting a lull on Wednesday, followed by a second round of snow.

The same weather system dumped heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada and western US in recent days.